Pathribal case: sanction needed to prosecute army men: SC told

The Centre today told the Supreme Court that it needs four months to decide on sanction for producing the army officials charged with carrying out a "fake encounter" in Pathribal in Jammu and Kashmir 12 years ago in which seven people were killed, saying matter involves the sensitive issue of human rights.

"It is the joint stand of Home and the Defence Ministries that prior sanction is needed to institute legal proceedings against army officers as per AFSPA," an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Defence before a bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said.

The affidavit said "since the matter involves sensitive issues, including human rights, a practical solution should be found very expeditiously". It said the Centre would pass appropriate and judicious order on sanction for prosecution of eight army personnel involved in the case.

The apex court, which is examining the immunity to Army personnel for encounters killings under Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), was told by CBI that the protection granted in the law cannot be allowed to be "misused" in discharge of official duty.

The agency had during the last hearing said that the incident was "cold-blooded murders" and the accused officials deserve to be meted out "exemplary punishment" and should not be protected by AFSPA. "It was a fake encounter with a motive...it can't be termed as discharge of duty by the army and these army officials should not be protected by AFSPA," senior advocate Ashok Bhan, appearing for CBI, had said.

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