Days after the Indian Army completed its investigation into allegations that three labourers were killed in a fake encounter, and buried as unidentified militants, the Jammu and Kashmir Police has filed a charge sheet against three persons, including an Army captain.
The 1,400-page charge sheet was filed in the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Shopian, on Saturday in the killings of Rajouri residents Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Abrar. It was filed by the head of the Special Investigation Team.
The three accused were identified as Captain Bhoopendra Singh of the Army’s 62 Rashtriya Rifles, Bilal Ahmed Lone and Tabish Nazir. The police said Bilal Ahmed Lone had turned approver in the case.
A police statement said that during investigation, it came to light that a conspiracy was hatched by the accused to abduct the civilians and stage the gunfight.
“They [the accused] deliberately and purposefully chose not to follow SOPs [standard operating procedures], they planted illegally acquired weapons and material on their [the civilians] dead bodies after stripping them of their identities and tagged them as hardcore terrorists in possession of war-like stores and deliberately providing false information to colleagues/senior,” the police said.
Using the information obtained from the accused during interrogation, the Special Investigation Team recreated the scenes of the crime, including the routes used by the men after meeting the three victims, and the place where they were killed, the police said. “During further investigation, all the circumstantial evidence, which includes two vehicles and the service rifle of Captain Singh of the 62 RR, were seized,” it added.
On July 18, the security forces had said that they received specific inputs about the presence of militants in South Kashmir’s Shopian district, after which they began the operation. A police statement, issued on July 18, said soldiers killed three unidentified militants during a gunbattle and buried their bodies in a remote graveyard. They claimed that the suspected militants had allegedly opened fire at the security forces.
However, family members of the civilians had come forward to clarify that they were labourers and not militants. The families of the deceased had sought immediate arrest and conviction of those responsible for the incident.
A formal inquiry into the deaths of the three men began in August. The Court of Inquiry, which completed its investigation in September, found prima facie evidence that its personnel had exceeded powers under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1990, in the episode. Disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act were initiated against the accused personnel.
Two Army personnel are likely to face court martial proceedings for violating the powers vested under AFSPA, and for not following the rules as approved by the Supreme Court.