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Monitor report: Charged with murder, Indian Army officer got passport, fled to US

A Monitor investigation finds that despite being wanted in India for the murder of a human rights lawyer in Kashmir, Maj. Avtar Singh was given a passport. He killed his family this June in the US.

By Staff writer / September 11, 2012

In this June 10 photo, classmates and neighbors gather in front of the Selma, Calif., house where a father killed his wife, two children and gravely wounded a third child. Avtar Singh, the father, was also a former Indian army officer wanted by authorities in his homeland for murder in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Gosia Wozniacka/AP


When an immigrant in California this summer shot his wife, three children, and then himself, it left the small town of Selma, outside Fresno, searching for answers. The case quickly took on international importance – and raised more questions – when it emerged that the gunman, a former Indian Army major, was a fugitive from India, wanted for a wartime murder in Kashmir.

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Newly released information reveals that the Indian government issued a passport used by the fugitive, Avtar Singh, to flee to Canada and eventually settle illegally in California. This was done despite an earlier Indian court order to prevent his leaving the country.

Mr. Singh was wanted by an Indian court to face charges for the 1996 murder of Jaleel Andrabi, a prominent human rights lawyer in Kashmir.  Fearing Singh was a flight risk, the court in Kashmir ordered the Indian government in 1997 to impound or deny any passport for him. 

How Singh had managed to flee has remained a mystery, one that is now partly answered. In response to a Right to Information request about when and where Singh obtained a passport, India’s Ministry of External Affairs revealed late last month that a government passport office issued him the document in 2001.

A top Indian bureaucrat claims the government followed proper procedures in issuing the passport. But the Indian judge whose order was broken argues that the case highlights a lack of respect for the rule of law in the world’s largest democracy.

“If we followed rule of law, even in Kashmir, many, many problems would get automatically solved. You must have trust in the systems that you have created,” says retired Justice Bilal Nazki.

No extradition, no deportation

US immigration officials first discovered Singh living illegally in California in 2007. They started a deportation process that was still pending at the time of his murder-suicide.

In February 2011, police in California arrested Singh for trying to choke his wife, and in the process discovered an Interpol warrant for his arrest from the Indian court in Kashmir. But despite repeated calls to India from police in the US, the Indian government never issued an extradition request to get Singh back, so he was released.


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