Thursday, August 18, 2022

Oting: SC halts trial of army personnel

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed proceedings against 30 army personnel booked by the State police in connection with the killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland’s Mon district in December 2021.
According to Bar and Bench, an online portal, a Bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and V Ramasubramanian also recorded that the death of a paratrooper during the incident had not been investigated yet.
The Court was hearing two pleas, one of which was filed by Anjali Gupta wife of Major Ankush Gupta, who was one of the army officers booked by Nagaland Police.
The petitioner sought quashing of the concerned first information report (FIR), the findings and recommendations of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the State government, and all other ancillary proceedings arising out the December incident including the complaint filed by the National Human Rights Commission.
On December 4, 2021, two firing incidents occurred in the Tiru-Oting region. The first incident took place around 4:26 pm, and six persons were killed. In the second incident, which followed a few hours later around 9.55 pm, seven villagers were killed. The security forces had mistaken them for militants, following an intelligence tip-off on the likely movement of militants.
The NHRC had filed a complaint against the Army personnel. Further, the Nagaland Police constituted a special investigation team to investigate the incident, which after the probe, filed a chargesheet against the 30 army personnel. The Nagaland government then sought the permission of the Union government to act against the persons named in the chargesheet.
The petitioner claimed that the officials were only “performing their bonafide duties as directed by the Union of India, but the SIT so constituted to conduct a free and impartial investigation into the said incident has acted in a completely arbitrary, unilateral and illegal manner, by picking and choosing the evidence available before it to appease the public outcry and to assuage the concerns of the chose few (sic).”
It was contended that the SIT attributed criminality to the accused “in its zest” to conclude the probe and appease a section of society on the basis of a “lopsided investigation”.
The plea accused the SIT and State functionaries of having turned a blind eye to the safety of the accused and their family members by revealing their personal information. Further, intelligence received by the accused was not taken cognisance of.
Despite being personnel protected by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Army Act, they are being proceeded against under the Criminal Procedure Code instead, it was pointed out. The petition was filed through advocate Astha Sharma.
According to a report by The Wire, the Army Major, heading the operation, knew for about 50 minutes that they had taken the wrong route. The officer discarded the information and ordered his men to carry out the operation. The SIT, in its report, claimed that “all victims were shot with the clear intention to kill”.
The Wire, citing forensic report, said all victims were shot multiple times from close range and suffered injuries on their upper bodies.

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