Jammu: Army on Thursday said fresh summons have been issued to eye-witnesses in the Pathribal fake encounter case even as it asserted that the court-martial proceedings were being held outside the jurisdiction of Srinagar-based 15 corps to ensure fair play.
"The Army has once again issued summons through CJM Anantanag to the civilian witnesses, including the relatives of the five persons killed in Pathribal encounter, this time giving sufficient time for them to appear", PRO, Ministry of Defence (MoD), Army`s Northern Command Lt Col Rajesh Kalia said today.
"The concerned J and K Police personnel have also been sent summons to appear as witness before the officer recording Summary of Evidence", he added.
The court-martial is being carried out against five officers allegedly involved in the Pathribal fake encounter killing of five innocent men in Anantnag district of Kashmir more than 12 years ago.
The Army spokesperson said it is for fair play and equity that the proceedings are being held outside the jurisdiction of 15 Corps and exhorted the witnesses to appear and give evidence.
Army had issued summons to eye-witnesses and relatives to depose before Army commander from September 20 after he initiated disciplinary proceedings against the accused Army Officers in the alleged Pathribal fake encounter case at Nagrota-based 16 Corps headquarters.
However, nobody turned up from civilian eye witnesses and relatives.
Consequent to the Supreme Court`s Order, the Army had taken over the case from Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar and thereafter attached these officers to its Nagrota based 16 Corps.
The spokesperson equated a Summary General Court-Martial to a Sessions Trial. Even in a Sessions Trial, the filing of Challan by the police or CBI does not mean that the accused is guilty of the charges, he said.
After submission of the challan, the Criminal Court conducts the trial whereas witnesses are examined and evidence produced, he said.
Similarly, he said that once the case is taken over by the Army under the provisions of Army Act Sec 125, before the Magistrate having taking cognizance, the Commanding Officer has to have the Summary of Evidence recorded to enable him to decide future course of action.
He, therefore, advised the witnesses to appear before the officer recording Summary of Evidence so that this long-pending case can be brought to its logical conclusion.
The PRO also stated that in a very exceptional case where the presence of a witness cannot be procured say due to ill health or old age, such a witness can be examined through a questionnaire.
Lt Col Kalia further submitted that as per the law of the land no person can be condemned unheard and, therefore, examination of witnesses in the presence of the accused is a legal requirement.
On September 20, Lt Gen AS Nandal, GOC 16 Corps in the capacity of Commanding Officer heard the charges preferred by the CBI against these officers and directed Summary of Evidence to be recorded against them.
During this hearing, Lt Gen AS Nandal heard the evidence led by Ashok Kalra, the CBI Inspector, who had investigated the case, he said adding that he also produced challan which had been filed by the CBI before CBI Court.
In June this year, the Army decided to try in General Court Martial (GCM) its 5 officers allegedly involved in Pathribal fake encounter killing of five innocent men in Anantnag district of Kashmir in March 2000.
Army moved an application before CJM Srinagar, the designated CBI court, seeking transfer of the Pathribal fake encounter case to the General Court Martial.
CJM has directed transferring the records including the charge-sheet and other material evidence to the General Court Martial through the Army`s authorised officer.
The Army`s decision came after the Supreme Court on May one gave eight weeks` time to it to decide whether the accused officers will be tried in the GCM or face a trial in the civilian court.