March 2007 News

Sepoy Gets Death For Killing Officer

4 March 2007
The Indian Express

Srinagar: In a first for the tumultuous counter-insurgency theatre in the Kashmir Valley, a military court last week awarded death sentence to a soldier found guilty of killing his senior officer while on duty. The five-member military court was unanimous in its decision that the soldier be executed for his action. The verdict was announced by the military court presiding over a Summary General Court Martial (SGCM) on February 26, within a month of the court martial being convened on January 31 this year. On October 31, 2006, Sepoy SC Behra of 28 Rashtriya Rifles battalion emptied a full magazine of 5.56mm ammunition from his service weapon into his company commander Lt Col Saket Saxena at Dara Harwan in the outskirts of Srinagar. The officer, son of retired Army Brigadier V Saxena, died on the spot. Behra, a native of Keonjhar district in Orissa, was overpowered by other Army personnel on duty and taken into custody. The incidents came as part of a sharp rise in 'fragging' in the Army. In 2006, 24 troops were killed as a result of colleagues running amok with their weapons. The Army confirmed on Friday that Behra's act was perceived as 'rarest of the rare' by the military court - since his action was 'premeditated' and not in the 'heat of the moment'. Behra was reprimanded by his company commander for improper conduct while on sentry duty at the Company Headquarters. 'The case currently rests with Headquarters Northern Command and is being processed for further action. The verdict is subject to confirmation by the Army channel and then by the Centre,' an Army spokesperson in New Delhi told The Indian Express. Following a court of inquiry ordered by the Army's Northern Command, SGCM proceedings began on January 31 this year. Behra was given a chance to defend himself in the case. He also has the option of taking course to civilian law at any point. After the verdict, the case will be processed through 15 Corps Headquarters in Srinagar and HQ Northern Command in Udhampur. After due process through the office of the Army chief, the verdict will finally be subject to confirmation by the Defence Minister as a competent representative of the Centre. The Defence Minister will be empowered to seek the advice of the Law Ministry. The verdict is by no means a first. Among at least four recent death sentences handed down by Army courts for comparable incidents of fratricide, the most recent was awarded in June 2005 to Lance Havildar Jagtar Singh for killing two colleagues and attempting to commit suicide. However, no death sentence by a military court has so far been carried out - all have either been commuted to life sentences or stayed by civilian courts.


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