1994 Assam Fake Encounter: Here's What High Court Said On Compensation Demand

Court martial had in 2018 had seven army personnel to life imprisonment for 1994 killing of five men detained after a murder

1994 Assam Fake Encounter: Here's What High Court Said On Compensation Demand

Army concluded court martial proceedings in 2018, convicting seven personnel. (Representational image)

Guwahati:

In a case related to killing of five men in a fake encounter in Assam 28 years ago, the Gauhati High Court has told the petitioners to get a copy of court martial proceedings of seven convicted Indian Army personnel before a decision on compensation for the victims' families is taken.  

The Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) had in 2018 sentenced the seven personnel, including a Major General, to life imprisonment for the 1994 killing of five men detained after the murder of a tea estate manager. 

High Court Acting Chief justice N Kotiswar Singh and Justice Nani Tagia said the details of court martial proceedings may have relevance in ascertaining the compensation.  

The court is hearing two petitions - including the one filed in February 1994 immediately after the men were detained - that now seek compensation. The bench noted that when the copy was first sought by a petitioner's lawyer, KN Choudhury, the central government counsel told the court that "perhaps the provisions of 147A of the Army Rules, 1954 may not permit giving any copy of such proceedings of the court martial". 

Section 147A sets certain conditions and expressly states that a copy will not be shared "if the Central Government certifies that it is against the interests of the security of the State or friendly relations with foreign States" to do so. 

The High Court deferred the petitions until a decision on providing the copy is taken. "The competent authorities will decide expeditiously," it said. 

The fake encounter was part of a chain of events starting with the murder of a tea estate manager in Dangari area of Assam by ULFA terrorists in February 1994. Army personnel from 18 Punjab Regiment of the army detained nine men, one of whom was a prominent activist of the All Assam Students' Union (AASU), from Tinsukia district as suspects. 

On a habeas corpus petition by the then AASU leader Jagadish Bhuyan seeking their whereabouts, the Gauhati High Court ordered the army to produce the men at the nearest police station. The army produced five bodies. It was eventually found that these men were branded ULFA terrorists and killed in cold blood by army personnel, while the four others were released in a jungle after the court order. 

Investigation was carried out by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which chargesheeted seven army personnel. The matter reached the Supreme Court, which led to army conducting its own inquiry and the court martial.

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