Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Nagaland civilian killings: Union govt denies sanction to prosecute 30 army personnel

On Thursday, the Nagaland Director General of Police’s office stated that the Ministry of Defence’s Military Affairs department has refused to authorize the prosecution of the 30 Army members who were allegedly found involved in the shooting incident that occurred in Oting village in Nagaland in December 2021 and resulted in the deaths of six civilians.

On December 4, 2021, in Oting village located in Mon district, security forces opened fire on a pickup truck transporting eight miners in the evening. The army said it was in a case of “mistaken identity.” This incident resulted in the immediate death of six miners while two survived. Subsequently, seven more civilians and a security personnel were killed in the ensuing retaliatory violence.

After the incident, which sparked widespread public outcry in Nagaland and the Northeast, the state government established a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the matter. Additionally, the Army launched an independent Court of Inquiry to examine the incident.

In May 2022, the SIT concluded its investigation and submitted a chargesheet to the district and sessions court in Mon, based on its findings. The chargesheet accused all 30 members of the 21 Para SF team, including the team leader who held the rank of Major, of offenses under IPC sections related to murder, attempted murder, and tampering with evidence, among others. However, the prosecution sanction is still pending.

The SIT accused the team commander of “conspiring to kill the occupants of the pickup vehicle in spite of the fact that the ground sources input was different”. All the victims were shot at “with a clear intention to kill,” it said.

The DGP’s office on Thursday said the sanction has been denied, Indian Express reported.

Since the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, requires the Union government’s authorization to prosecute security personnel in areas under its jurisdiction, the legal proceedings cannot proceed further without such approval.

“The SIT after completion of the investigation, on 24/3/2022 had sought Sanction for Prosecution from the Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Government of India…It may be mentioned that prosecution sanction from the Government of India is required for initiating any proceedings against security forces personnel for any actions taken by them while discharging their duties under section 197(2) Cr.P.C and Section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). …Meantime, the competent authority (Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Government of India) has conveyed its denial to accord Sanction for Prosecution against all the 30 accused,” read the statement by Roopa M, Inspector General of Police, Nagaland.

“Is murder not a crime? Are the people of Oting — and Nagas in general — not human? The SIT report clearly said the Army was guilty. Doesn’t the government of India value the life of our people?” responding to the recent development, Keapwang Konyak, the president of the Oting Students’ Union said to Indian Express.

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