NEW DELHI, March 14: On a day that a major national newspaper carried a news report of the Army seeming to let off its higher ranked officers lightly in connection with a face off between them and some jawans in a place in J&K, the same scenario played itself out during the second day of the proceedings of the Supreme Court Inquiry Commission looking into alleged extra judicial killings at Vigyan Bhawan. The preferential treatment for higher ranked officers were all too visible when PN Choudhury, the Counsel for Assam Riffles along with the Counsel from the Ministry of Defense attempted on numerous occasions to interject and prompt replies from witnesses on the stand. The same was missing when it was the turn of the lower ranked personnel. On many occasions, the Counsel for AR was specifically asked not to interrupt the proceedings with his suggestions and promptings on the ground that he was ‘unnecessarily getting suspicious and making it difficult’ by the Chair of the Commission, Justice Santosh Hedge.
The second day of the proceedings at Vigyan Bhawan after the earlier sittings of the Commission in Imphal saw the continuation of the cross examination of witnesses from the Assam Riffles. Cross examinations of witnesses of AR personnel involved in the alleged fake encounter cases of Khumbongmajum Orsonjit (19); the joint killing of two cousins, Nameirakpam Nobo (27) and Nameirakpam Govind (25) and Elangbam Kiranjit (22) were completed today. In an interesting turn of events, the cross examination of witnesses regarding the case of Umakanta could not take place since the seizure memo handed over to the Commission was found to be that involving one of the witnesses but pertaining to another case of alleged extra judicial killing which is not in the list of cases taken up by the Commission. Incidentally again, the said Commando personnal, Hollal Haokip was earlier cross examined in yet another case by the Commission in Imphal.
As in all cases being heard by the Commission till date, factual inaccuracies starting from differences of statements given in the written affidavits and depositions to the Commission were evident. All the AR personnel who were cross examined admitted that they were not aware of any disciplinary action being taken against the AR for violating the Army ‘do’s and don’t’s’. All made a point to state that they did not take part in the firing. Tellingly, a rifleman who was cross examined today gave the statement that he was not aware of what casualties had taken place and what arms and ammunitions had been recovered. He said that all he came to know about the incident was what he was told during the course of a de-briefing after the incident.
The Commission today directed that the correct seizure memo be handed over and directed that the cross examination of witnesses involved in the case of the death of Umakanta would stand adjourned till March 16. At the end of the 2nd day of the proceedings in New Delhi today, a total of 5 witnesses of the AR involved in 3 cases were completed. The cross examinations into the circumstances leading to the death of Akoijam Priyobrata (25) will be taken up tomorrow.