The trial of an Indian Army captain for an alleged cold-blooded encounter in Shopian, Jammu, and Kashmir, has finally reached its verdict, with the Court awarding life imprisonment for the crime. The sentencing of the captain has stirred up deep emotions among the people of India, largely due to the fact that it was an extra-judicial killing. The incident which took place in April 2018 sent shockwaves through the nation as it raised serious questions about the government’s ability to reign in the army and protect its citizens. This case has also become a major issue in the ongoing Kashmir conflict, with many people pointing to it as an example of the state’s abuse of power.
On 13th February 2020, the Chief Judicial Magistrate Shopian, Rajouri District Court awarded Indian Army Captain Bhoopendra Singh Tomar with life imprisonment for his involvement in a cold-blooded encounter in Shopian on the 3rd of April 2019. The encounter took the life of three civilians – Shabir Ahmad Mir, Tariq Ahmad Sheikh, and Suhail Javed Lone.
The court found Captain Tomar guilty of attacking the three young men and shooting them in cold blood during a nighttime ‘cordon and search operation at Moolu village. All three of them succumbed to their injuries and were declared dead on arrival at the district hospital.
The court noted that the three civilians were shot and killed in spite of not offering resistance or having any criminal history as per the district police records. They were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time and were tragically caught in an encounter conducted by the Indian Army without any accountability.
The court’s decision came on the heels of a probe initiated by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission. The commission had sought an investigation into the matter after receiving multiple complaints from locals and civil society activists. This is a landmark judgment as the local civil court in the Shopian district has now officially held an army Captain responsible for his actions during the encounter.
The Indian Army, in the past, has been notorious for its immunity from civil laws, and this judgment serves as a reminder that no one is above the law and perpetrators of such brutal crimes will be dragged to the court of law and punished accordingly.
This judgment is likely to have a wider impact as the Indian Army will be re-evaluating its cordon and search operations across the country to ensure that civilians are not harmed in the line of duty. Additionally, this judgment will also lay an important example to the international community that India takes such crimes of human rights and violations in a war zone seriously and will not hesitate to punish perpetrators.
The families of the three young men killed in the encounter will hope for closure after the judgment and will hope for peace and justice for all other human rights victims in India.