oppn parties Welcome Conviction & Sentencing in Machil Encounter Case

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Welcome Conviction & Sentencing in Machil Encounter Case

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
There is a pressing need to prevent human rights abuse in conflict zones by security forces. India has a notorious Act, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which is used to deploy the Army in states where armed insurgents are active. This deployment of the Army gives it sweeping powers which sometimes results in those powers being gravely misused. Incidents of illegal detention, torture and rapes are common and regularly reported. This leads to the public perception that the army uses these powers to harass ordinary citizens rather than combat insurgency. The fact that most of these incidents are either brushed under the carpet or the guilty are never punished leads to a situation where the army is generally despised in these states and the call for repealing the AFSPA grows louder by the day.

Hence, the recent court martial, conviction and sentencing of six army personnel guilty of conducting a fake encounter at Machil in Jammu & Kashmir will go a long way in restoring public faith and ensuring accountability. These Army men were found to have indulged in luring three Kashmiri youth with promise of jobs in the Army through informers and subsequently eliminating them in a ‘fake’ encounter. This was done to claim the reward that was in force for capturing or killing insurgents. The police enquiry clearly established that the persons killed were not militants and were illegally framed. The Army top brass, guided by the Supreme Court verdict in the Pathribal fake encounter case where it had said that the Army was free to try its members by court martial unlike civilian authorities, chose to court martial the accused. They have been found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. They can always appeal against this sentence in a civilian court, but nothing much is likely to come out of it as the military trial procedures are more stringent and civilian courts are likely to uphold the verdict.

The sentence should not be viewed as a measure to curb the powers of the Army. No Act gives powers to abuse authority. Greed of reward had guided the said six Army men to kill innocent youth. At other times, inability to control sexual urges makes Army men rape innocent girls. They are also accused of inhumanly torturing illegally detained youths. The sentencing in the Machil case would serve as a warning to unscrupulous Army men that such incidents will not be tolerated. Due process of law must be followed in fighting insurgency, even when one has “special powers.” This is not to say that insurgents, including their local helpers, should be given leeway, but security forces have to ensure that human rights are not willfully violated. There should also be a review rewarding personnel for capturing or killing insurgents. After all, isn’t it their job to do so? They get gallantry medals and promotions for doing their job efficiently and there is no need for cash rewards.