The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Jammu and Kashmir police on Thursday formally arrested R.K. Birdi,Commandant of 68 battalion of the Border Security Force, for his involvement in the killing of 16-year-old Zahid Farooq in the Nishat area of Srinagar on February 5.

On Thursday morning, the Commandant was handed over to the police by the BSF authorities. After initial questioning, Commandant Birdi was formally arrested by the SIT sleuths. Later, a remand for his custody was sought from the Forest Magistrate until March 6.

A police report, presented before the First Additional District Court in Srinagar where the Commandant's bail application came up for hearing, said: “Today [Thursday], on March 4, Randheer Kumar Birdi has been formally arrested in the case FIR No.04/2010 under Sections 302, 109 and 201 [murder, destruction of evidence and abetment of crime] registered in Police Station Nishat.”

Infirmed sources told The Hindu that these Sections were slapped on him after conclusive evidence about his involvement in the crime. Earlier, BSF constable Lakhvinder Singh, who opened fire on Farooq (on Commandant Birdi's instructions), was arrested. Some eyewitnesses and other BSF personnel were questioned by the SIT, following which pressure mounted on the BSF authorities to hand over the Commandant.

The prosecution opposed the bail application of Birdi , which was withdrawn on Wednesday. “As submitted in the police report by Superintendent of Police, East, [member SIT], the accused Commandant has already been arrested. Therefore, on those grounds the application for anticipatory bail is rendered anfractuous,” the State prosecutor told the court.

Judge Shakti Gupta later ordered that “from a perusal of the report by the SP, SIT, it reveals that today [Thursday] the petitioner accused Commandant Birdi has been formally arrested by authorities of the PS [Police Station] Nishat and charged under Section 302, 109, 201 RPC. Hence, the anticipatory bail application has been rendered anfractuous. Therefore, the petition is dismissed.”

Commandant Birdi is the first top-ranking security official to be arrested in recent years for violating human rights in Kashmir.

Farooq's killing had evoked strong reactions in the Kashmir Valley, forcing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to take up the issue with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

The Minister, during his recent visit to Jammu, said by taking action against the BSF personnel he had delivered on his promise of zero tolerance of human rights violations.