The Army has initiated general court martial proceedings against a Captain for the killing of three men in a staged encounter in Amshipura in south Kashmir in July 2020 after a Court of Inquiry found that troops had “exceeded” powers vested under the AFSPA, officials said here on Sunday.

The three men hailing from Rajouri district of Jammu region—Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohammed Ibrar—were killed in a remote hilly village in Shopian district on July 18, 2020, and labelled as “militants”.

However, as doubts were raised on social media over the killings, the Army promptly constituted a Court of Inquiry which found prima facie evidence that the troops had “exceeded” powers vested under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Maintaining its highest standards and commitment to ethical conduct of anti-militancy operations, the court martial proceedings were then initiated against Captain Bhoopendra Singh, they said.

The Court of Inquiry was followed by the Summary of Evidence, which was completed in the last week of December 2020. Subsequently, the Army had issued a statement saying “the process of recording the Summary of Evidence has been completed. The same is being examined by the authorities concerned in consultation with legal advisors for proceeding further.”

“The Indian Army is committed to ethical conduct of operations,” it had said.

The officials said the Captain was facing court martial proceedings for violating the powers vested under the AFSPA and for not following the Do’s and Don’ts of the Army as approved by the Supreme Court.

The Army had also called Mohammed Yusuf, the father of Abrar Ahmed, from Rajouri for deposing in the court martial proceedings. “I have been here for the last one week and the Army authorities have asked for the missing report about my son which I have provided. We are being looked after by the Army and I am confident that I will get justice,” he said.

Immediately after the news about the fake encounter spread, the Jammu and Kashmir Police had constituted a Special Investigation Team which filed a chargesheet against three people, including Captain Singh, for “staging a fake encounter” in the higher reaches of Shopian district and killing three men.

The chargesheet had alleged that Captain Singh had provided wrong information to his superiors and the police about the recovery made during the staged encounter. The other two named by the police in its charge sheet are Tabish Nazir and Bilal Ahmed Lone, both civilians.

“By staging the encounter,” the three accused “have purposefully destroyed evidence or real crime that they have committed and also have (been) purposefully projecting false information as part of a criminal conspiracy hatched between them with the motive to grab” cash rewards, it said.

The Army had, however, denied that its Captain staged the encounter for cash reward, saying there was no such system for its personnel for any acts in combat situations or otherwise in the line of duty.

“The evidence was destroyed by accused Captain Singh,” the charge sheet said, adding he along with the other two accused set fire to a shelter where the encounter had been staged.

The SIT chargesheet gave details of forensic analysis of the crime scene which was photographed “from all possible perspectives”. The FSL (Forensic and Scientific Laboratory) team recovered vital evidence that was seized.

The chargesheet submitted by the SIT listed 75 witnesses in support of its findings and also provided technical evidence, including call data records of the accused persons.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had visited the families in Rajouri in 2020 and conveyed to them Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message that the government stood with the aggrieved families, and they would be taken care of with all support from the government.

The identity of the three youths was subsequently confirmed through a DNA test. The bodies were handed over to their families in Baramulla in October 2020 and were later buried in their native village in Rajouri.