Nearly six months after commencing General Court Martial proceedings against its five officers in the alleged fake Pathribal encounter case, the army today accepted the demand of civilian witnesses to record their statements in south Kashmir, as they were finding it difficult to travel to Jammu.
Terming the move as "exceptional effort" to ensure free, fair and transparent trial in Pathribal case, an Army spokesman said this extraordinary judicial initiative will help in prompt and indisputable delivery of justice.
Despite repeated summons issued to the civilian witnesses, they have not come forward to depose before the Army court which was unduly delaying the judicial process.
Civilian witnesses, particularly the next of kin of the deceased, had expressed their inability to travel to Nagrota to depose before the court citing the reasons of cost and difficulties of journeys.
Some media reports had also highlighted the old age as the reasons for their reluctance to travel to Nagrota, the spokesman said.
In consideration of the sensitivity of the case and the difficulties expressed by the remaining witnesses and to impart early justice in the case, he said officer will be moved to Awantipur to facilitate the recording of their statements.
"Upholding the principles of justice, in a significant endeavour to facilitate timely conclusion of the case, the officer recording Summary of Evidence has been directed to move to Awantipur (from Nagrota in Jammu) for recording the statements of the remaining witnesses which will commence from March 5," a defence spokesman said in a statement here.
Brigadier Ajay Saxena, Lt Col Brajendra Pratap Singh, Major Sourabh Sharma, Major Amit Saxena and Subedar Idrees Khan were charge-sheeted by the CBI in 2006 for allegedly killing five civilians at Pathribal in Anantnag district.
After killing the civilians, the accused army officers had dubbed them as foreign militants days after 35 Sikhs were massacred in the nearby Chattisingpora village in 2000.
Consequent to the orders of the Supreme Court last year, Army had taken over the Pathribal case from Chief Judicial Magistrate, Srinagar and commenced General Court Martial proceedings against the five officers allegedly involved in the case at Nagrota-based 16 Corps headquarters in September.
After hearing the CBI charges, the General Officer Commanding 16 Corps who is based at Nagrota, had directed recording of the Summary of Evidence against the accused Army personnel. Accordingly, the summons were served to all the witnesses including the family of the deceased.
Statements of 26 witnesses, including all the Army witnesses and some police as well as government officials, have been recorded so far, the spokesman said.