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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Indian soldier sentenced to death
Indian soldier, Dal lake, Kashmir, April 16, 2007
Indian soldiers are said to be suffering high levels of stress
An Indian soldier has been sentenced to death for killing his superior in Indian-administered Kashmir last year.

Satyam Kumar was convicted by a court martial of shooting dead his guard commander, Havildar Padmarajan. Another soldier was injured in the incident.

A defence spokesman said sentence was passed on 18 May and approved by the Ministry of Defence. Kumar can appeal.

He is the second Indian soldier in three months to be sentenced to death for killing his officer in Kashmir.

Although India has capital punishment, death sentences are reasonably rare - and even more rarely carried out.

Shootings rising

Kumar opened fire with his rifle on Padmarajan on 26 October after a row, the army says. Another soldier Balwan Singh was injured in the incident.

The court martial said he had fired without provocation, killing his officer in cold blood. It described the case as "rarest of rare".

But five days later, on 31 October last year, another officer, Lt-Col Saket Saxena, was shot dead in a similar case in the Kashmir Valley.

One of his subordinates, SC Behra, was sentenced to death for murder in March.

Both soldiers have the right to appeal in civilian courts against their sentences.

Such shootings have risen in the state in recent years, blamed on fatigue and stress. In 2006, 32 soldiers were killed by comrades across India.

More than 100 took their own lives in the same year, the army says.

Observers say poor service conditions, inadequate home leave, low pay and a communication gap with superiors all contribute to low morale in the million-strong force.

Reports say troops in Indian-administered Kashmir, who have been fighting separatist militants since 1989, suffer high levels of psychological trauma.

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