CBI books Army officer in extra-judicial killings case
An Army officer has been booked by the CBI in a case related to the alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur which are being probed by the agency on the orders of the Supreme Court.This is the first such case in the 29 FIRs registered by the CBI. Major Vijay Singh Balhara, then attached with Assam Rifles, and seven other uniformed personnel have been named as accused in the case pertaining to the killing of a 12-year-old boy, Azad Khan, on March 4, 2009.This case was termed a fake encounter by a Supreme Court-appointed commission led by retired judge Santosh Hegde.Azad, a student of Class VII in Phoubakchao High School with no criminal antecedents, was allegedly picked up from his home before being killed, the commission noted.An FIR was registered nearly two months before the alleged encounter under sections of attempt to murder, Arms Act and other stringent charges. “According to the security forces’ evidence, the deceased was suspected to be a member of the People’s United Liberation Front,” the commission said, adding that PULF was not a banned organisation, according to the Manipur government.Parents witness to murderAzad’s family had alleged that about 30 security personnel came to their house, dragged the boy to a nearby field and beat him up severely. The parents, relatives and friends of Azad were locked in a room by the security forces but they saw through the window when he was shot by one of the commandos and a pistol was thrown near his body, the commission report stated. The police, meanwhile, had claimed that they got inputs of terrorists’ movement in Azad’s village. When they reached there, two persons fired at them from the bamboo groves. An encounter ensued after which the body of the boy was found and a 9-mm pistol was recovered, the police said.After hearing the deposition of Major Balhara, who led the operation, the commission noted that there was “serious contradiction” in his statement with that of the other witnesses. Relying on autopsy reports, witnesses’ statements and statements of police and Assam Rifles, the Hegde Commission submitted its report calling it a case of extra-judicial killing. In July last year, the Supreme Court had handed over 41 cases of fake encounters to the CBI in which 86 people were killed by security forces.