Killing 3 in fake encounter : army confirms dismissal of Captain

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From left: Imtiyaz Ahmad, Ibrar Ahmad, Mohammad Ibrar

Indian Army has confirmed the cashiering of his officer Captain Bhoopendra Singh in a three year old case. He has been found responsible for killing  three civilians in a staged encounter in  Amshipora area of Shopian in Jammu and Kashmir in July 2020 and dubbing them terrorists.

In the meantime,Capt Bhoopendra Singh secured a stay on his sentence of life imprisonment and  a bail from the Armed Forces Tribunal.

According to media reports , the findings of a Court of Inquiry and his conviction and sentencing were confirmed by the higher Army authorities on November 11 as a part of process required under the law.

Capt. Singh was brought to a civil jail in Jammu and later released on bail as per the directions of the tribunal on November 11 itself, said the officials.

According to the confirmation of the sentence, the officer was cashiered/dismissed from service dishonourably. Capt. Singh, who joined the Army in 2015, will now be deprived of pensionary and all other benefits.

Three men killed in the encounter were Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar. They belonged to Rajouri district of Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and were killed  in a remote hilly village in Shopian district on July 18, 2020. They were labelled as terrorists.

In its 25-page order delivered on November 9 suspending his sentence, the tribunal said that  Singh could not have any motive for the action and conducted such an operation without the knowledge of his senior officer.But the tribunal refused to stay his conviction and other punishments such as cashiering.

The tribunal noted that the counsel for the Centre had sought permission to promulgate the findings and sentence by the confirming authority and then shift Bhoopendra Singh to a civil jail where he will  serve the rest of the sentence of life imprisonment. It had directed the counsel to complete the proceedings by November 11.

Bhoopendra Singh’s counsel Major (retired)  Sudhanshu S. Pandey  expressed hope that the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) would expeditiously hear his petition against his conviction.

While granting him bail, the tribunal said that  it would neither rely on the confessional statement given by another accused, Bilal Ahmed, who has been granted pardon by a civil court for turning approver in the case, nor that of the commanding officer of the 62 Rashtriya Rifles who claimed that he had no knowledge about the incident.

Following the killing of the three men, doubts were raised on social media which  prompted the Army to constitute a Court of Inquiry (COI)  which found prima facie evidence that the troops had misused powers vested under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. COI was followed by the summary of evidence which completed in December 2020. Army court in March 2023  recommended life imprisonment for Captain Bhoopendra Singh, subject to confirmation by higher Army authorities.

While granting him bail and suspending his sentence, the AFT had said, that the applicant has already been in custody for a period of about three years and therefore, it is a fit case where, prima facie, evidence available on record suggests that bail can be granted to the applicant by suspending the sentence.

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Motive : 
The tribunal has raised the doubts and said the totality of the evidence available on record clearly shows that there cannot be any motive for the applicant to eliminate three civilians and conduct such an operation without the knowledge of his senior officer.

Conditions for bail:
The conditions put forth for the bail include that Singh shall not approach anyone who had testified against him and that he shall surrender his passport to the principal registrar. He shall not leave the country without leave of this tribunal.