This Kashmir Reader story explores who can appeal the recent decision of the Armed Forces Tribunal in the Machil "fake encounter" case. Excerpt:
The decision to release five troopers of 4 Rajputana Rifles convicted in Machil fake encounter by an Army [sic] Forces Tribunal (AFT) can only be challenged by the Indian army, legal experts say. In their opinion, the J&K [Jammu & Kashmir] government relinquished the powers to take the case to a civilian court when they agreed to army’s request court martial.
“If the army wants, they can challenge the AFT decision in the High Courts of Srinagar and Delhi,” said senior lawyer, Zafar Ahmad Shah. “Every order can be challenged and army can challenge the AFT decision under the Indian Constitution.”
Whether the Indian army was ready to take the step is not clear. But legal experts believe that state government can’t exert any power to approach a higher court.
Explaining the legalities, Shah said that the case pertaining to the fake encounter by the accused army men was handled by army itself. “The prosecutor, the accused and the judge belonged to the army after they chose to run a trial in the army court, which they had a right to,” he said.
After filing of the charge sheet in December 2010, the army decided to hold their own court instead of standing trial in a civil court. Shah said, “All the investigation, prosecution and other things were handed over to the army (by the police).”
So it is up to them now whether to file a writ against the AFT which has stayed the conviction of the army court besides suspending the life imprisonment and release the five men on bail on July 26 this year.”
Shah’s views are seconded by noted advocate G N Shaheen. “Yes, army can challenge the verdict, but the question remains whether it will.”
Another legal expert said that “the AFT order can be challenged under 31st section of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).” He explained that the victim families can also challenge the order “but they will have to seek permission from AFT and then, they can even move to Supreme Court”.