Jammu: The Indian Army said Thursday it has closed the 2000 alleged Pathribal staged shooting case against its personnel as evidence collected by it did not establish a prima facie case against any of the accused.
"Consequent to CBI investigation and order of the Supreme Court in March 2012, the army had taken over the alleged Pathribal case from the court of chief judicial magistrate, Srinagar in June 2012," said a defence statement issued here.
"A comprehensive and exhaustive effort was undertaken to record evidence against all the accused persons. Over 50 witnesses have been examined including a large number of civilian witnesses, state government and police officials.
"Forensic, documentary and other relevant evidence has also been taken on record. For the convenience of the next of kin of the deceased persons and other civilian witnesses, the team recording the evidence moved to the Valley to record their statements," it said
"The evidence recorded could not establish a prima facie case against any of the accused persons, but clearly established that it was a joint operation by the police and the army based on specific intelligence," it said, adding: "The case has since been closed by the army authorities and intimation given to the court of judicial magistrate, Srinagar.
The case related to killing of five people in Pathribal forest area of south Kashmir`s Anantnag district on March 25, 2000 by security forces, who claimed all the slain were foreign militants killed in a gunfight and from whose possession weapons had been recovered.
Following a public outcry that all the slain had been local civilians framed as foreign militants, the authorities had ordered exhumation of their bodies and subsequently ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the incident.
The CBI indicted five personnel of 7 Rajputana Rifles including Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt. Col. Brijinder Pratap Singh, Major Saurabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan in the killings and described it as "cold blooded murder".
In 2007, the CBI presented a charge sheet against the accused in the court of chief judicial magistrate, Srinagar. The army however moved the state high court on behalf of the five accused soldiers challenging the CBI`s move, but the court dismissed the appeal.
The army then filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the jurisdiction of the CBI to file a charge sheet against army personnel without sanction from the central government, contending they were protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).