Army COI into Machhil encounter restarts

The Army has restarted a probe into the Machhil fake encounter in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, after the civil administration agreed to provide the witnesses in the case.

Last Updated: Sep 23, 2010, 15:46 PM IST

New Delhi: The Army has restarted a probe into the Machhil fake encounter in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir, after the civil administration agreed to provide the witnesses in the case.

The Court of Inquiry (COI) had stopped its investigations in June as the civil authorities were delaying its request to query key witnesses in the alleged fake encounter that took
place on April 30.

"The civil administration has now allowed the witnesses to depose before the COI and the investigations by the Army resumed last week," a senior officer in the Army headquarters here said today.

The fake encounter came to light after local residents protested the killing of three youths in Machhil sector along the Line of Control (LOC). The Army had ordered a COI soon
after the protests.

With the witnesses now available for deposition, the Army is likely to complete its probe by next weekend, the officer said.

Four witnesses, including a Territorial Army soldier Abbas Hussein Shah whose statement forms the basis of a police report in the case, were made available on the request of the Army`s COI presiding officer Brigadier JS Sangha, the officer said.

The inquiry had to be stopped midway after the local administration reportedly did not make the key witnesses including Bashir Ahmad, Abdul Hameed and Nawab Khan available for deposition due to fears that they could be influenced by the Army.

Following the controversy over the killings, the Army removed Colonel DK Pathania from command of 4 Rajput Regiment, the unit which carried out the Machhil operation and made him available for inquiry.

Major Upinder Sharma, who was also named as the main accused in the police complaint, was suspended from service duty pending completion of the probe.

The Army COI is based on the police report that the Major entered into a criminal conspiracy with some local associates to kidnap the three youths after promising them jobs.

The police were informed of the Major`s role by Abbas Hussain Shah, a soldier with the 161 Territorial Army battalion in the state.

PTI