Srinagar, May 21 (KMS): In occupied Kashmir, likely the first such instance since the onset of armed struggle in Jammu and Kashmir, Indian Army has invoked the cover of Criminal Procedure Code to block prosecution of its 16 personnel involved in the custodial murder in Kishtwar 25 years ago when draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act was not applied to the district.

On October 22, 1993, Indian soldiers led by Captain T.K. Chopra captured one Mushtaq Ahmad Butt when he was on his way home to Hunjala from Dool. Fearing for his life, Butt’s family immediately informed top police and civil administration authorities that Army was keeping him in illegal confinement along with few other locals.

But nothing happened until November 3 that year when Butt’s bullet-riddled body was found. On a complaint by Butt’s family, police registered a case of illegal confinement and murder against personnel of Indian army soldiers.

Later, police Crime Branch investigation revealed 16 soldiers were involved in the crime and the puppet administration approached the Indian ministry of defence seeking sanction to prosecute the killer personnel in a civilian court – a prerequisite under AFSPA.

On February 2, 2015 the ministry in a rare response informed the administration that the prosecution of the soldiers under AFSPA could not be agreed to because Kishtwar district, where the crime was committed, was not declared a disturbed area under the so-called impunity law.

This means the administration does not need any permission and can go ahead to prosecute the 16 criminal army personnel. But the Army claims they were covered under criminal proceeding.

However, on September 6, 2017 the Crime Branch went ahead to file a charge-sheet, but the court at Kishtwar declined to accept it in absence of the killer army personnel who had not turned up. The case has, therefore, become a test for the puppet administration and the local judiciary.

Jammu region, including Kishtwar which was then a part of erstwhile Doda district, was declared as disturbed in 2001 and brought under AFSPA.

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