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Jammu Kashmir

Posted at: Nov 17, 2015, 12:12 AM; last updated: Nov 17, 2015, 12:12 AM (IST)

Budgam case in limbo as police await Army report

Court of inquiry holds 4 soldiers guilty

  • On November 3 last year, an Army patrol had fired at five youths travelling in a car at Chattergam village in Budgam district, mistaking them for militants. Two youths had died on the spot, two others sustained serious injuries while the fifth had escaped unhurt
  • The Army termed the killings a “mistake” and has held four soldiers guilty of violating standard operating procedures
  • The police are still awaiting the Army’s court of inquiry report. Without the report, the police cannot file the chargesheet. The police say they have repeatedly sought the report but there has been no response from the Army, keeping the case in limbo

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria

Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 16

Even as the Army recently indicated its “course of action” to punish four soldiers in the Chattergam mistaken-identity killings’ case of November last year, the Jammu and Kashmir Police say it awaits a copy of the Army’s court of inquiry to file a chargesheet before a local court in Budgam district. The Army reportedly completed the court of inquiry in August this year.

On November 3 last year, an Army patrol party of 53 Rashtriya Rifles had fired at five youths travelling in a Maruti car at Chattergam village in Budgam district, mistaking them for militants. Two youths had died on the spot, two others sustained serious injuries while the fifth had escaped unhurt.

The Army had termed the killings a “mistake” and had announced ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of the two slain youths — Faisal Yusuf Bhat and Mehrajuddin Dar. “The Army has already completed the court of inquiry but the police are yet to file the chargesheet. The Army cannot award punishment on its own in a military court because the case was being concurrently probed by the Army and the police and is in a civilian court,” said an official source.

“The Machil fake encounter case of 2010 was transferred to a military court, which is not so in this case where the chargesheet has not been filed as yet,” the source added. “The Army’s court of inquiry might have found the charge of use of excessive force against the soldiers to be true but legal procedures have to be followed,” the source said.

The killings of two teenagers and injuries to two others had triggered a wave of protests in Kashmir that saw Northern Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda issuing an apology barely five days after the shootout.

On November 3, 2014, a patrol belonging to 53 Rashtriya Rifles opened fire on a white Maruti car after it allegedly didn’t stop at two check points, fuelling suspicions that they were terrorists.

The Army held a probe against 14 soldiers, out of whom four were found guilty of violating standard operating procedures.

A senior police officer said the police was still awaiting the Army’s court of inquiry copy. “Without the Army’s court of inquiry report, we cannot file the chargesheet. We have repeatedly sought it from them (Army) but there is no response from their side to date. Therefore, the case definitely is in limbo,” he said.

Under legal provisions the chargesheet has to be filed within 90 days of the incident and the deadline lapsed in the first week of February this year, he added.

He said the chargesheet had to be filed in Munsiff Court in Chadoora. The police FIR had stated that the soldiers had opened fire on the car with the “intention to kill’’ the occupants.

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