The CBI on Monday told the Supreme Court that the alleged fake encounter at Pathribal in Jammu and Kashmir 12 years ago in which seven people were killed by army personnel “were cold-blooded murders and the accused officials deserve to be meted out exemplary punishment.”
Senior counsel Ashok Bhan told a special bench of justice BS Chauhan and justice Swatanter Kumar 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 told the bench.
Bhan’s submission was contrary to the stand taken by Additional Solicitor General PP Malhotra, who appearing for the Army officers, said prior sanction was mandatory for prosecuting the officials, who otherwise are innocent.
The apex court posted the matter for further hearing on next Monday and asked the CBI to clarify the expression used in Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gave immunity to Army personnel for encounters killings.
The bench wanted the CBI to explain what was the meaning of the expression “acting in discharge of duty or acting in purported discharge of the duty,” as provided in Section 6 of the AFSPA.
On the last hearing, the apex court had asked the Centre to convey its stand as to whether five officials, including a Major General, can be tried under the Army Act.
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.
Additional Solicitor General PP Malhotra, on behalf of the Centre, had denied fake encounter killings had taken place in the specific case pertaining to J&K and another case relating to Assam, pending before the apex court.