Virtually holding the Jammu and Kashmir Police responsible for misleading the security forces in the infamous Pathribal encounter case, the Army’s Court of Inquiry has told the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Srinagar that no criminal culpability was established against five officials indicted by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

“… it is clearly established that a joint operation was launched by the Army [7 Rashtriya Rifles] along with Civil police on March 25, 2000, based on precise information given by the police to the local Army commander, on 24 March 2000. There is no evidence on record which in any way connects any of the five accused persons with the murder, wrongful confinement, abduction/causing disappearance etc of the five deceased persons,” General Officer Commanding 16 Corps, Lt. General D.S. Hooda, who headed the CoI, reported to the civil judge.

“The evidence on record does not in any way establish a prima facie case against any of the aforesaid accused persons on any of the charges which were taken over from the honourable CJM Srinagar for which summary of evidence was recorded against them”, Gen. Hooda has said. “And therefore, I, as the commanding officer of all the five accused persons, in conformity with the due process of law, have dismissed the charges against the aforementioned accused persons, in accordance with Army rule 24 (1) (c).”

While none of the Jammu and Kashmir Police officials agreed to respond to Gen. Hooda’s observations, a retired official, who held a senior position in the police in South Kashmir in March 2000, told The Hindu: “This case has been meticulously investigated by the country’s most professional and credible agency. What’s the new evidence that the CBI failed to get and the General sahab has got while sitting in his drawing room in Jammu that has proved the Army officials innocent?”

The retired police officer claimed that FIR 15/2000, registered with the Achhabal police station, was filed on the basis of the written report of the adjutant of Rashtriya Rifles 7th battalion Captain Amit Saxena (now Lt. Colonel), who was the first person to inform the police about the operation, on March 25. “Had it been a joint operation, why would the police have required the Army’s report for registration of FIR?”