Five students leaders were allegedly killed by the Army in a fake encounter branding them as Ulfa militants

GUWAHATI: An army Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) has sentenced seven army personnel, including a dismissed Major General, to life imprisonment for their alleged involvement in a fake encounter case that had taken place in Assam in 1994. However, army officials said that the judgement of life imprisonment needs to be confirmed by the competent authority, which can take a few more months.

The Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) on Saturday awarded life imprisonment to Major General A K Lal, two other officers and four Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), for the fake encounter of five youths.

Lal was removed as commander of the Leh based 3 Infantry Division in September 2007, after a woman officer accused him of “misconduct” on the pretext of teaching her yoga. He was dismissed from service, but later the Armed Forces Tribunal restored his retirement dues. The other two officers were also dismissed from service.

The SGCM on the incident began on July 16 and ended on July 27. “The SGCM held at Dinjan has pronounced judgement in an encounter case of 1994 in North East. The judgement of life imprisonment needs to be confirmed by the competent authority and this may take two to three months,” said an official.

The case relates to 1994 when a manager of a tea estate was killed by ULFA militants. Army personnel from the 18 Punjab Regiment had detained nine youths belonging to Assam’s Tinsukia district over allegations that they played a role in the killing. The youths were All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) leaders. Five of them were allegedly killed by army personnel in a fake encounter, after they were branded as ULFA militants The other four were released in a jungle, after being threatened at gunpoint.

Jagdish Bhuyan, then an AASU leader, had filed a Habeas Corpus petition in the Gauhati High court, seeking to know the details of these youths. The High Court ordered the army to produce the nine AASU leaders at the nearest police station. Later, the army produced five bodies at the Dholla Police Station. The case’s probe was later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The CBI chargesheeted seven army personnel in the case.

The High Court had asked the army to conduct a court martial, which was challenged by the army in the Supreme Court. On being asked by the Supreme Court, the army started the process of holding the SGCM.

“Justice is finally delivered in the infamous Dangari encounter case where five innocent youths were killed. The verdict of the court martial yesterday once again brought to the fore the neutrality of Indian Army. It has proved that one must have faith in Indian judicial system, democracy and the discipline and neutrality of an Institution like Indian Army,” said Jagadish Bhuyan, who has been fighting the case for last 24 years.