By Muslim Mirror Staff
The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has suspended the life sentence of Army Captain Bhoopendra Singh, also known as Major Bashir Khan, who was convicted for the killing of three men in what has been labeled a “staged” encounter in Amshipora village, south Kashmir, in July 2020.
The tribunal not only suspended the sentence but also granted conditional bail to Captain Bhoopendra Singh, directing him to appear before its Principal Registrar at regular intervals starting from January next year.
The three men, identified as Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed, and Mohammed Ibrar, were initially portrayed as “terrorists” but doubts arose on social media, leading the Army to conduct a Court of Inquiry (COI). The COI found evidence that the troops had “exceeded” powers granted under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
The General Court Martial proceedings concluded swiftly, recommending life imprisonment for Captain Singh in March. However, the recent AFT order expressed doubts over the conviction, calling the evidence “not convincing enough” to hold him guilty.
The tribunal’s two-member bench, chaired by Justice Rajendra Menon, stated, “Prima facie, based on the material available on record, we are convinced that the likelihood of the applicant being acquitted after hearing of this appeal cannot be ruled out.”
The AFT highlighted the lack of motive for Captain Singh to eliminate civilians without the knowledge of his senior officer, casting doubt on the Army’s version of events. The tribunal also noted that the court martial had relied on “inadmissible” evidence, violating the Indian Evidence Act.
Responding to concerns about the safety of Captain Singh in a civil prison, the AFT ordered his transfer to a civil prison in Jammu under proper escort after the confirmation of the sentence.
Captain Singh’s counsel, Maj (Retd) Sudhanshu S Pandey, welcomed the AFT’s decision, stating that it upheld the rule of law and prevented a demoralizing effect on officers sacrificing their lives for the defense of the nation.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police had initiated a special investigation team, filing a charge sheet against Captain Singh and two others for staging a fake encounter. The families of the deceased received government job appointment letters, and Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had assured support to the aggrieved families.
The AFT’s order questioned the court martial’s findings, calling them “perverse” and “improper.” Captain Singh’s appeal alleged irregularities in the proceedings and manipulation to make him a scapegoat, a claim supported by the AFT’s prima facie assessment.
The tribunal’s order emphasized that the conviction relied on inadmissible evidence and highlighted discrepancies in the Army’s account of the operation. As the legal process unfolds, the suspended life sentence and conditional bail bring a new twist to a case that has been closely watched in the region.(with PTI inputs)