The Indian Army on Monday (January 11) officially debunked the media reports which state that the Army Captain involved in the alleged fake encounter in Shopian in July last year had done so with the motive of grabbing a Rs 20 lakh award.
The Indian Army referred to the media reports carrying such news as "mala fide" and clarified that the armed forces have no system of "cash rewards" based on performance in the line of duty or during combat situations.
Earlier, multiple media reports had indicated that Captain Bhoopinder Singh, involved in the alleged fake encounter in Shopian in July last year in which three youths were killed, had hatched a conspiracy along with two civilians with the motive of "grabbing" the reward money of Rs 20 lakh and had fired at the victims even before his men could cordon off the area.
The Defence PRO in Srinagar said today, "Media reports that Amshipora encounter actions were driven by Rs 20 lakh award for the killing of terrorists are malafide. Indian Army has no system of cash awards for its personnel for any acts in combat situations or otherwise in the line of duty".
However, it is to be noted that the media reports contained agency inputs which merely cited the police charge-sheet filed in the case.
The charge-sheet, agencies reported, submitted by the Special Investigations Team of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) police before the chief judicial magistrate of Shopian district, had information about the bit involving the Rs 20 lakh cash as motive for the encounter.
"By staging the encounter," the charge sheet said, Capt. Singh and the two other civilians also "purposefully destroyed evidence of the real crime that they had committed and also have been purposefully projecting false information as part of a criminal conspiracy hatched between them with motive to grab prize money of Rs 20 lakh".
It said the accused captain of 62 Rashtriya Rifles "furnished false information to mislead the senior officer and for getting" an FIR lodged to "tailor-fit his motive for grabbing prize money in furtherance of criminal conspiracy".
If there is a discrepancy between the police charge-sheet and the official clarification of the Indian Army, it's a cause for concern, political commentarors have noted.
Captain Bhoopinder Singh is currently in the custody of the Army, with informed sources saying he may face court-martial proceedings.
The case relates to the July 18, 2020 encounter at Amshipura here, in which three youths of Rajouri district -- Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar -- were killed and branded as terrorists.
The charge sheet submitted before the chief judicial magistrate of this district also details the role of the two civilians -- Tabish Nazir and Bilal Ahmed Lone -- in the case.
Lone has since turned an approver and recorded his confession statement before a magistrate.
After reports emerged on social media that the three youths were not associated with terrorism, the Army had ordered a court of inquiry which completed its probe earlier in September. It had found "prima facie" evidence that the troops had "exceeded" the powers granted under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Following this, the Army had initiated disciplinary proceedings.