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Six Years Down The line, Spirit Of Manorama Continues To Haunt AR, HC Directs AR To Reply To Petitions Filed By Bereaved Mother

NUDE PROTEST : The incident which gave a new dimension to the understanding of AFSPA

IMPHAL, Jan 10: A division bench of the Gauhati High Court Imphal bench, has issued notices to the Assam Rifles authorities on a petition filed by the family of Thangjam Manorama Devi who was brutally raped and murdered by the personnel of 17 Assam Rifles back in 2004.

The incident was something of a landmark in the modern history of Manipur, with the State, particularly Imphal, paralyzed for months, ultimately forcing the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh to fly down to Imphal and assuage the sentiments of the people.

In response to the demand of the people, the Prime Minister announced the constitution of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission to review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to make it more humane.

Khumanleima and one of her sons filed the case seeking the punishment of the guilty jawans, after the sealed inquiry report that contains the facts and circumstances leading to her killing were opened.

Since the State Government has failed to investigate the incident, according to the findings submitted by the C Upendra Commission, the petitioners also prayed that the service of the CBI be roped in to investigate the case and study the findings of the Commission.

Retired Sessions Judge C Upendra, who conducted the State sponsored inquiry, submitted his findings to the State Government on November 22, 2004 but it could not be opened following an earlier verdict passed by  a single bench of the High Court on June 22, 2005.

However another verdict passed in September last year set aside the 2005 ruling thereby allowing the State Govt to open and act upon the inquiry report.

Then 32 years of age, the brutalized and bullet riddled body of Th Manorama was found in the wee hours of July 11, 2004 at Laipharok Maring village in Imphal east. She was picked up by soldiers from 17 Assam Rifles from her Bamon Kampu residence the previous night. An arrest memo was issued at the time she was picked up.

Since the State has not opened the Upendra report and acted on its findings and recommendations, despite pressure from the family members, the latter filed the latest writ petition, said advocate Rakesh Meihoubam appearing on behalf of the family.

The bereaved mother prayed before the Court to direct the State Government to open the report after which the CBI may be requisitioned to investigate the findings of the Commission and take up action against the erring personnel within a time frame.

Khumanleima also requested that the investigation by the CBI be monitored by way of furnishing the progress of the probe report from time to time.

Having heard the arguments of both sides, Chief Justice Madan Bhimarao Lokur and Justice Asok Potsangbam issued the notices to the Government including the Union of India, represented by the Secretary of the Defense Ministry, Inspector General of Assam Rifles (South), Commandant 17 Assam Rifles, Manipur Chief Secretary, Home Commissioner, DGP, Superintendent of Police (Imphal East) and Officer-in-charge of Irilbung police station.

The Court has asked these officials to give their replies within four weeks, said Rakesh who is also the Manipur unit director of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN).

Following the massive public uprising, including the historic and unprecedented nude protest by women folk in front of Kangla, and last year’s violence Kashmir, a new political perspective has emerged with regard to the Army Act.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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