SC reserves verdict on Pathribal

NEW DELHI, Apr 23:
The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on whether Army personnel allegedly involved in killing 7 persons in a staged shootout at Pathribal in J&K 12 years ago could be prosecuted without prior sanction from the Government.
While concluding their arguments, Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval and senior counsel Ashok Bhan, appearing for the CBI, reiterated that Army personnel in the alleged fake encounter have no immunity from prosecution.
The CBI earlier had told the special bench of justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar that it was a case of “cold-blooded murder and the accused officials deserve to be meted out exemplary punishment.”
The CBI had contended that no prior sanction was required for prosecuting the Army officials and the need to ensure “public confidence in the rule of law and dispensation of justice” warranted their prosecution.
“Our investigations have revealed it was a fake encounter and cold-blooded murders. If public confidence in the rule of law and dispensation of justices is to be sustained, the accused officers deserve to be meted out exemplary punishment,” Bhan had told the bench.
Bhan’s submission was contrary to the stand taken by Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra, who, appearing for the Army officers, said prior sanction was mandatory for prosecuting the officials, who otherwise are innocent.
The Defence Ministry and the CBI have differed on the immunity enjoyed by the Army under the controversial AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and other regular laws in encounter killings.
The CBI had maintained that the expression used in Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gave immunity to Army personnel for encounters killings was not available to the accused officers in the present case.
Additional Solicitor General P P Malhotra, on behalf of the Centre, had denied the allegations of fake encounter and argued that they enjoyed protection in discharge of their official functions.
The CBI had earlier moved an application for vacating the stay granted by the apex court on the trial relating to the killings of 7 persons by the Army allegedly in retaliation to the killing of 36 civilians by militants at Chattisingpora in 2000.
According to the CBI, though the right of immunity under 197 CrPC was available to the officers, but in the present case it has not been sought by the accused, but by senior Defence Ministry officers, which was contrary to the law. (PTI)


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