The Jammu and Kashmir Police in its chargesheet in the alleged fake encounter in Shopian have said that Army Captain Bhupinder Singh had tried to destroy evidence, PTI reported on Sunday. Three men, suspected to be militants, were killed in the July 18 encounter. The family members of those killed have claimed that they were labourers, not militants, as labelled by the security forces.

Singh also did not give any information about the source of weapons planted on the three deceased youths and provided wrong facts to his superiors and the police about the recovery made during the staged encounter, the chargesheet said. It was filed by the police’s Special Investigation Team before the chief judicial magistrate in Shopian.

“By staging the encounter,” the three accused “have purposefully destroyed evidence or real crime that they have committed and also have [been] purposefully projecting false information as part of a criminal conspiracy hatched between them with the motive to grab a prize money of Rs 20 lakh,” it said.

However, the Indian Army has denied there is a system of a cash reward for its security personnel. “There are media reports quoting that Amshipora encounter actions were driven by a Rs 20-lakh award for killing of terrorists,” Defence Spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said. “It is clarified that Indian Army has no system of cash awards for its personnel for any acts in combat situations or otherwise in the line of duty. The report is malafide [misleading] and not based on facts of the processes internal to Indian Army.”

Earlier, besides Singh, the police had named Tabish Nazir, a resident of Chowgam village of Kulgam district, and Bilal Ahmed Lone, a resident of Arabal Nikas in Pulwama district, in its 1,400-page chargesheet.

According to the chargesheet, four out of 75 witnesses in the case had mentioned in their statements that Singh “initiated a few bursts of live ammunition even before a cordon was laid” and others joined him very late in engaging the suspected militants. Subedar Garu Ram, Lance Naik Ravi Kumar, and Sepoys Ashwini Kumar and Yougesh, who were part of Singh’s team, were among those whose statements were recorded.

Shopian fake encounter

On July 18, 2020, 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. They claimed that the suspected militants had 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 – Abrar Ahmed, Imtiyaz Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar – 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 misused powers under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1990, in the episode. Disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act were initiated against the accused personnel.

On December 25, the Army said that it had completed the Summary of Evidence in the inquiry, though it did not reveal any detail. 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.