Sandeep Dikshit

Such a punishment was never meted out in previous cases, say serving officers

NEW DELHI: Perhaps for the first time in independent India, an Army court has sentenced a jawan to death for killing an officer following an altercation.

A General Court Martial (GCM) sentenced sepoy K.C. Behra to death for killing Lieutenant-Colonel Saket Saxena on the outskirts of Srinagar on October 31 last. The GCM was held near Srinagar and headed by a Colonel-rank officer from a regiment other than that of Lt. Col. Saxena, said reliable Army sources.

Both the soldier and the officer were posted with the Rashtriya Rifles, the Army's specialised counter-insurgency force operating in Jammu and Kashmir. The sentence is subject to confirmation by the Chief of the Army Staff and can be challenged in the civil courts. "In my 32 years of service, I have not come across a case like this," said a former Army spokesperson.

Claiming that the sentence was "harsh," serving officers said such a punishment was never meted out in previous cases of killing of officers by other ranks. They said it indicated a carrot and stick policy by the Army to curb distress deaths.