Army officer Major Vijay Singh Balhara booked by CBI in Manipur extra-judicial killing case

An army officer has been booked by the CBI in a case related to the alleged Manipur extra-judicial killings which are being probed by the agency on the orders of the Supreme Court.

An army officer has been booked by the CBI in a case related to the alleged Manipur extra-judicial killings which are being probed by the agency on the orders of the Supreme Court. This is the first such case in 29 FIRs registered by the CBI
Major Vijay Singh Balhara, then attached with Assam Rifles, along with seven other uniformed personnel has been named as accused in the case pertaining to the killing of 12-year-old boy Azad Khan.

The case has been registered under IPC sections related to murder. This was termed a case of fake encounter by a Supreme Court- appointed commission led by retired apex court judge Santosh Hegde.

According to the family, Azad was killed on March 4, 2009, the commission had noted. A student of class VII in Phoubakchao High School with no criminal antecedents, he was allegedly picked up from his home before being killed, it said.

An FIR was registered nearly two months before the alleged encounter under sections of attempt to murder, arms act and other stringent charges. “According to the security forces’ evidence, the deceased was suspected to be a member of the Peoples United Liberation Front (PULF),” it said, adding that PULF was not a banned organisation, according to Manipur government.

Azad’s family had said that he and his friend Kiyam Ananda Singh, who was a neighbour and studied the same school, was reading newspaper in the verandah of his home where his parents and relatives were present. At 11.50 am, about 30 security personnel came to the house and dragged Azad to a nearby field where he was severely beaten up amid protests from parents, the Commission said in its report.

Parents, relatives and friends of Azad were locked in a room by the security forces but they could see through the window that after being beaten up, he was shot by one of the commandos and a pistol was thrown near the body, it said. The version of family members was supported by relatives, it said.

The police had claimed that it got input of terrorists’ movement in Azad’s village to extort money from people. When they reached they found two persons running through bamboo groves firing at them. An encounter ensued for five minutes after which body of the boy was found and a 9 mm Smith and Wesson pistol was recovered, it said.

After hearing the deposition of Major Balhara, who led the operation, the commission noted that there was “serious contradiction” in his statement with that of other witnesses. The commission noted that forces knew exactly where deceased was as they directly went to his home.

“It is to be noted that it has come in a deposition that the house from which the youths started running is the house of the deceased. Therefore the fact that the deceased was in his house when the commandos first saw him and was not involved in any extortion of money at that time is established,” it said.

The Commission also noted that it extremely difficult to believe that nearly 20 trained security personnel equipped with sophisticated weapons such as AK-47 and Insas rifles could not have overpowered or disabled the victim and were afraid of their security when he was running away from them and intermittently firing at them from 9 mm pistol.

Relying on autopsy reports, scene of crime details, witnesses’ statements and statements of police and Assam Rifles, the Hegde Commission submitted its report to the Supreme Court calling it a case of extra-judicial killing. In July last year, the Supreme Court had handed over 41 cases of fake encounters to the CBI in which 86 people were killed by security forces.

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