SRINAGAR: The army has refused revealing details of the court martial proceedings against six of its personnel involved in the Machil fake encounter, HuffPost India reported.
Breaking the news exclusively, Akshay Deshmane reported the army is “using all available legal means to suppress the public release of documents”. It has denied sharing information citing reasons that it was an “unwarranted invasion of the privacy” of the accused, and would result in public outrage that would “prejudicially affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India”, and affect military operations in the state.
The fake encounter played the main triggered to the 2010 unrest. Three Kashmiri youth were lured to garrison in forward areas of Karnah to work as porters. They were killed and dubbed foreign militants. A police investigation later revealed the chilling details of the case. The slain trio were exhumed and brought to Rafiabad where they were buried in their ancestral graveyards. The fake encounter led to more than 100 killings and the agitation continued for more than six months.
In 2014, a Court Martial found Colonel Dinesh Pathania, Captain Upendra Singh, Havaldar Davender, Lance Naik Lakhmi, Lance Naik Arun Kumar and Rifleman Abbas Hussain guilty of killing Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Mohammad Shafi Lone and Riyaz Ahmad Lone.
In September 2015, the Northern Army Commander had confirmed the life sentence awarded by the Court Martial earlier, paving the way for the convicts to be handed over to jail authorities, the HuffPost India reported. In 2017, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) suspended the sentences of five of the six accused (one person was already out on bail by then).The trial has not concluded yet.
The army response came in an RTI filed by Venkatesh Nayak, coordinator of the Access to Information programme of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) in January 2015. He had sought the findings of the Court Martial in relation to the conviction of six army personnel, the charge sheet filed before the Court Martial in relation to the case, and the sentence awarded to the convicted army personnel by the Court Martial, and a photocopy of proceedings of another Court of Inquiry which enquired into the killings of five persons in Pathribal in 2000.
The Army invoked exemption from disclosure under Section 8 (1)(h) of the RTI Act, 2005 to deny the information.”Disclosure of such sensitive information would result in public outrage. Hence keeping in view of public interest and security, it was decided not to implement it,” the Huffpost India quoted the response saying. “Further, to Nayak’s surprise, the Army noted they could not share information on the Pathribal case as a Court of Inquiry was never held.”
In September 2015, Nayak went in appeal to the CIC, the top adjudicating authority for the RTI. “Commission observes from the further submissions of the CPIO that there are no tenable grounds for invoking Section 8(1)(h),” the CIC bench of Information Commissioner Divya Prakash Sinha ruled. “In the absence of any plausible justification for invoking the exemption of Section 8(1)(h), Commission finds it inappropriate on the part of the CPIO to have denied the information.” The CIC also directed the army to respond in 15 days, but it didn’t.
In February 2017, Nayak wrote to the CIC again. The CIC wrote to the army the same month, asking that its orders be followed. In May 2017, the army filed a writ petition through an ‘urgent application’ in the Delhi High Court to set aside the CIC order. In July 2017, the HC stayed the CIC order but has not given a final decision on the army petition yet.
“Disclosure of such sensitive information would result in public outrage,” the army petition quoted by the news website states. “Hence keeping in view of public interest and security, it was decided not to implement it.” Sharing this information, the petition adds, “would prejudicially affect the security, sovereignty and integrity of India, and shall further have national and international ramifications. It further might create unrest in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, affecting the law and order situation, which would in turn affect the National Security”.