The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 19 July, stayed criminal proceedings against the 30 army personnel who were booked over the killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland's Oting in December 2021.
A bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and V Ramasubramanian noted that the mandatory prior sanction as required under Section 6 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 was not obtained prior, LiveLaw reported.
The section stipulates, 'No prosecution, suit or other legal proceedings shall be instituted except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.'
Thirty personnel of Indian Army's special forces, including a major, were named in the Nagaland Police charge sheet over the botched operation in Nagaland's Mon district.
"Probe revealed that the ops team of 21 Para Special Forces hadn't followed standard operating procedures (SoPs) and rules of engagement. Their disproportional firing led to immediate killing of villagers," ANI had quoted Nagaland DGP TJ Longkumer as saying.
An FIR under sections 302, 307, 326, 201, 34 with Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) was lodged in connection with the attack.
Following this, partners of some of the officers names in the FIR moved the SC, seeking the dismissal of the FIR filed.
On 4 December 2021, a vehicle carrying eight coal miners in Nagaland’s Oting village was ambushed by the Indian Army’s elite 21 Para Special Forces, who were engaged in a counter-insurgency mission. Six people were gunned down. Their deaths were later regretted as a case of 'mistaken identity' by the army.
The incident took place at Tiru village in Mon district of Nagaland, just about 5-6 kms away from Oting village where the workers working in coal mine fields lived.
Seven more civilians were gunned down when villagers clashes with the army in protest after they discovered the dead bodies of the labourers. Another civilian was killed the following day when a mob attacked a camp of the Assam Rifles in Mon.
The Indian Army had given a green light to Nagaland's Special Investigation Team (SIT) to examine and record the statements of officers and soldiers involved in the ambush.
Addressing the Lok Sabha after the incident, Home Minister Amit Shah had said, "The army had received information about the possible presence of extremists in Oting, Mon. On the basis of that, 21 commandos had laid an ambush in the suspected area. A vehicle that reached there was signalled to stop but it tried to flee. On suspicion of the vehicle carrying extremists, it was fired upon."
He had also emphasised that the "unfortunate incident" took place because of "mistaken identity".
(With inputs from LiveLaw.)