Fratricide: Soldiers’ death sentence commuted to life

October 31st, 2008 - 3:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) Defence Minister A.K. Antony has, for the third time, commuted to life imprisonment the death penalty a military court awarded to an Indian Army soldier in a case of fratricide.”I have commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment. The decision has been taken on the recommendations of the army chief,” Antony told reporters here Friday on the sidelines of a Naval Commander’s Conference.

An official said the minister, after considering the evidence against the soldier, Ravi Kumar Pola, had commuted the death sentence as the case did not fall in the Supreme Court’s definition of “rarest of rare case”.

Pola has shot dead his senior, Major Harsh, in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2006.

The court martial proceedings began on May 7, 2007 and after the death sentence was handed down, Pola filed a mercy petition with the Army Headquarters here, which recommended it be commuted to life imprisonment.

Earlier, on Feb 26, 2007, an army court had sentenced Sepoy Suresh Chandra Behera of the 28 Rashtriya Rifles to death for killing his commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Saket Saxena. The incident took place at Harwan on the outskirts of Srinagar on the night of Oct 31, 2006.

On May 18, 2007, a court martial had sentenced Sepoy Satyam Kumar of a Northern Command signals unit to death for killing his superior, Havilder Padmarajan, on Oct 28, 2006.

Antony had commuted both sentences to life imprisonment.

Last week, a parliamentary panel had said the military establishment was not taking reports of suicides and fratricides seriously enough. The standing committee on defence, which presented its 31st report on “Stress management in the armed forces”, said 635 suicides by soldiers were reported between 2003 and 2007.

In addition, 67 fratricidal killings had occurred, the report said.

The “alarming trend of suicides and fratricidal killings in the armed forces”, the committee said, “is attributable to increased stress environment leading to psychological imbalance in the soldiers”.

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