Mother of late Captain Sumit Kohli on Saturday took her four-year battle for "justice" to Defence Minister A K Antony, demanding an independent probe, possibly by CBI, into her son's death claiming that it was a murder by fellow officers.
Veena Kohli later told reporters that the Defence Minister had assured the family, based in Chandigarh, that the young officer's death would be re-investigated and he would get back to them on it soon.
However, Col Rahul Pandey, who was the then commanding officer of Capt Kohli's unit 16 Rashtriya Rifles, refuted the mother's contention and maintained that it was a case of suicide. The family alleges that Sumit was murdered because he knew who were behind the killing of four porters in a fake encounter in Lolab in Kashmir in April 2004.
Veena Kohli submitted a representation to Antony urging him to order a probe, independent of Army control, to get to the bottom of the truth over the death of her son, who was a Shaurya Chakra winner.
"Yes, I will seek a CBI probe as I do not have trust in the Army's investigation anymore, as they have tried to hide the truth and have tarnished my brave son's image," Veena told reporters answering queries in this regard.
Capt Kohli was found dead with gunshot wounds at his room in military residential facility on Lolab in April 2006 while he was serving in 16 Rashtriya Rifles in Jammu and Kashmir.
It had been just two months since he had won the country's third highest peacetime gallantry medal and his sudden death had shocked his family and enraged them, particularly because the Army had claimed that it was suicide due to family troubles.
Veena's daughter Namrata, who accompanied her mother and the family advocate Major (retired) Guneet Chaudhary to meet Antony, said they had appealed to Antony to provide justice to the family as they believed Sumit was murdered by his fellow officers and the Army had tarnished his image by claiming that he had committed suicide.
Namrata, who spoke to PTI here, said the family had also urged Antony to restore the honour of Sumit, who had won a medal for gallantry in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
"We met the Defence Minister for about 15-20 minutes and sought an independent inquiry into my brother's death and he has assured us of an independent probe," Namrata said.
Demanding access to original documents related to her son's death, Veena Kohli said, "it should be found out how he died. I had earlier thought that whatever Army was saying was correct, but I want his post-mortem report so that I can be fully satisfied. I can't believe he had committed suicide."
Col Pandey, responding to her charges, said the death was a suicide and that there were Army procedures under which civilian doctors conducted post-mortem and submitted report to the higher-ups in the Army.
"After the documents reach the higher-ups in the Army hierarchy, it does not return to the unit. I never knew she had any suspicion over the officer's death. If she had called me or written to me earlier, I could have got the documents for her," he said.
Asked what was the basis of her suspicion, Veena Kohli said, "he was a Shaurya Chakra awardee and a brave officer. He could not have done this."
Alleging that some Army personnel were behind her son's death, Kohli said, "I will not blame the whole Army for this, but there are some people who got him out of their way as he knew everything happening inside. This incident happened on the last day of his posting in Lolab valley in Kashmir."
Soon after the news of Capt Kohli's death reached the family, his father suffered a stroke and died a day after his son's cremation. Sumit Kohli died at the age of 26.
After the Army claimed that the young officer had committed suicide, the family had made several attempts to seek information and documents such as post-mortem report relating to his death.
Her efforts to get the Army to part with information through the Right to Information Act too failed after the Army headquarters took the plea that the law did not apply to Jammu and Kashmir. She moved the Delhi High Court, which ordered the Army to supply Capt Kohli's death-related documents.
Her advocate Chaudhary said on perusal of the documents their suspicion over the mystery over Capt Kohli's death had only strengthened as there were contradictions in the autopsy and medical reports.
"We have submitted copy of these documents to the Defence Minister, who heard us patiently and assured that he will get the death of the young officer re-investigated," he added.