The special investigation team set up by Nagaland government has chargesheeted 30 members of the elite Jorhat-based 21 Para (Special Force), including a major, in connection with a botched counter-insurgency operation on December 4 last year in which 13 villagers of Oting, in Mon district, were killed.
Nagaland police stated that the SIT probe revealed that the para commando team “had not followed standard operating procedure and the rules of engagement and resorted to indiscriminate and disproportionate firing”. Police investigators have underlined the need to address those issues and requested the appropriate authority to take necessary action.
A senior advocate at the Gauhati high court, Angshuman Bora, said, “The civil court where the charge-sheet has been filed (Mon district sessions court) will have to send a notice to the commanding officer of the Army asking whether it would court-martial the the soldiers or allow the charge-sheeted personnel to be tried in a civil court. If the Army says it would go for a court martial, then a civil court will have no jurisdiction. In many cases, when there is an emergency situation or a special act is in force, like AFSPA, or offence happens with someone involved in an enemy country, the accused Army personnel are tried by court martial and not in a civil court. ”
Contrary to the findings of the SIT, Union home minister Amit Shah had said in the Lok Sabha that one unit of the Army’s 21 Para had laid an ambush in the area and, when “a vehicle reached there, it was signalled to stop but tried to flee. On suspicion that it was carrying extremists, it was fired upon. Six out of the eight people in the vehicle died. It was later found to be a case of mistaken identity”. Shah’s remarks had draw sharp criticism in Nagaland.
30 paratroopers have been charged under IPC sections dealing with criminal conspiracy, murder, attempt to murder, voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means, causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender. Besides Army major, the others charge-sheeted are two subedars, eight havildars, four naiks, six lance naiks and nine paratroopers.
Nagaland police said the letter seeking sanction to prosecute the 30 SF personnel was forwarded to the department of military affairs in the first week of April.
Nagaland Police is seeking permission to prosecute under Section 6 of AFSPA, which provides “protection to persons acting under Act”, says that “no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the central government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.