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SC faces challenge over army act

- Manipur activists to ask top court to review its 1997 order

Imphal, Nov. 27: Legal experts, rights activists and prominent citizens of Manipur today initiated consultation for approaching the Supreme Court to review a ruling passed by the top court upholding constitutional validity of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court upheld the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act on a petition filed by Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights in 1997.

The five-judge bench was headed by the then Chief Justice J.S. Verma, who after retirement headed the committee on amendment to criminal law in connection to sexual assaults, constituted in the wake of the infamous Delhi bus gang-rape case.

“We have launched today consultation among legal experts and rights activists to challenge the Supreme Court ruling, to mark 16th anniversary of the said ruling,” Kh. Anandi, managing trustee of Just Peace Foundation, a rights group supporting Irom Sharmila’s cause announced during the programme.

The foundation today held a small programme at the Manipur Press Club here to mark the day as “Supreme Court’s betrayal of people of Manipur and people of Kashmir”.

Legal experts, rights activists and leaders of Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families’ Association, Manipur, attended the programme.

“The Supreme Court only examined whether the Parliament had the power to enact the law and whether the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was in violation of any one of the fundamental rights of the people enshrined in the Constitution. We are planning now to challenge the 1997 ruling along with a prayer for repeal of the act,” Khaidem Mani Singh, rights activist and president of the All Manipur Bar Association, said.

Secretary of High Court Bar Association, Manipur, Sorokhaibam Jhaljit, also said the association was ready to provide proper legal suggestions to the proposal. The idea was mooted by Mani Singh and those gathered at today’s programme immediately accepted it. The plan is to move the apex court seeking a review of the 1997 ruling and also repeal of army act.

The gathering termed the act “inhuman”, “jungle law” and “draconian” and demanded implementation of the Jeevan Reddy Committee, which stated that upholding of the act by the Supreme Court was “not an endorsement of the desirability or advisability of the act”.

The committee also said the act has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness. It is highly desirable and advisable to repeal this act, altogether.

Renu Takhellambam, president of Extra-judicial Execution Victim Families’ Association, Manipur, said the association was an outcome of the army act.

“If the act continues to be in force, the number of widows and fatherless children will increase. We demand repeal of the act,” she said.

Challenging the ruling would mark another phase in the fight against the act. The idea was floated at a time when Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike against the act is entering its 14th year.

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