Chief of Army Staff Rajendra Chhetri on Thursday went to the NHRC to convey the error on behalf of his organisation. NHRC officials last month were barred from entering an Army barracks in Dipayal where soldiers detained in connection with missing weapons were reported to have been subjected to torture. Officials at NA’s Far-Western Divisional Headquarters had stopped the NHRC investigating team led by Human Rights Officer Pawan Bhatta, saying “there was no order from above [to let them enter]”. The rights body had sent its team to Dipayal to investigate into the complaints from the kin of the detained soldiers. There were also media reports that one of the detainees had committed suicide in the barracks after he was subjected to severe torture. When the NHRC demanded that the detainees, including Deb Singh Bohora, be presented before the constitutional body, the Army had expressed its inability to do so, saying “it was a military affair and it did not fall under the jurisdiction of the commission”. It had also argued that the commission could investigate into incidents of rights violations “only if the NA soldiers violate the rights of civilians”.
However, Article 249 of the constitution allows the commission to “enter any government premises or other places, without prior notice, in case the commission has received information that violation of human rights of a person is occurring thereon and immediate action is required, to provide rescue”. Clause 3 (a) of the same Article has also given the national rights watchdog the authority to “exercise same powers as the court in requiring any person to appear before the commission for recording statement and information or examining them, receiving and examining evidence, and ordering the production of any physical proof.” One SMG rifle, two loaded magazines and 200 rounds of ammunition were reported to be missing from the NA’s regional headquarters since August 5, following which the NA had taken 11 of its personnel into custody. NA officials said that Thursday’s meeting between the Army chief and the NHRC dwelt on seeking areas of cooperation to promote human rights within the institution. NHRC officials said the NA promised to correct the mistake. The NA has been in the past also accused of inflicting torture on detainees. Its Bhairavnath Battalion earned notoriety for subjecting detainees to torture during the insurgency. In a recent case, Colonel Kumar Lama was tried in a UK court on the charge of torturing two individuals at the Gorusinghe barracks, Kapilvastu in 2005. Lama was acquitted early this month.