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Army's stand unacceptable, untenable: Wullar Inquiry Officer

Written by: Staff
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Srinagar, July 7 (UNI) ''The Army is blowing hot and cold in the same breath....The Army's stand is untenable and unacceptable as higher echelons of the Srinagar-based XV Corps headquarters cannot be permitted to approbate and reprobate,'' said the Inquiry Officer probing the boat capsize in Wullar Lake of Jammu and Kashmir's Baramulla district on May 30 in which 22 students drowned.

District and Sessions Judge Syed Tariq Ahmed Naqshbandi, the inquiry officer into the incident, in his order yesterday, also pulled up the Navy for not submitting the statements of defence on affidavit despite ''having the opportunities'' to do so.

He said three sets of statements of defence were submitted yesterday by the school functionaries duly supported by affidavits.

On the other hand, despite opportunities, statements of defence on affidavit were not submitted by the Navy officer and Navy men. Lt Colonel Rajeev Sharma, who represented the Navy filed the gist of the findings of the court of inquiry, the Judge said.

He submitted an application expressing inability to produce witnesses without the sanction of the Central Government, saying the progress of the court of inquiry would be jeopardized by producing witnesses.

The Judge said on June 23, a notice had been given to Lt Nehra, the officer in-charge Naval unit MARCOS, Krishan Khulvi, two Navy men Pali Ram and Gansham, besides other Navy men who were reportedly present on the shore on the day of boat capsize.

The operative portion of that order, the Judge said mentioned that functionaries and persons are called upon to explain their conduct and submit statements in their defence on affidavits with supporting material, if any, on the next hearing on June 29 at Dak Bungalow in Sopore.

They would be provided a reasonable opportunity of being heard during the inquiry. Also, in the first place, the Navy officer and Navy men should produce evidence in their defence on the date.

The Inquiry Officer said Lt Col Sharma appeared in person on June 29 on behalf of the Navy and sought more time to file statements of defence and for producing evidence which was granted.

The June 29 order said that keeping in view the time constraint as the inquiry was required to be concluded within one month, ''last and final opportunity'' of five days is granted to Lt Col Sharma as well as to the Principal and others of the Burning Candle School, Handwara, for filing statements of defence on affidavits and documents, if any, in support thereof.

''Lt Col Sharma is also provided another opportunity to produce evidence on the next date of hearing on July 5 (revised for July 6) at Dak Bungalow in Sopore,'' the order said.

In his order yesterday, Mr Naqshbandi said it was clear that adequate and sufficient opportunities were provided to the Navy to file statements of facts and for producing witnesses, but these were not availed of.

''Apart from that, the position is that the Navy officer and Navy men have not chosen to file statements of defence nor have availed opportunities to produce evidence,'' he added.

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