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Sharmila case up for hearing

Imphal, May 9: For the first time since 2000, an Imphal court will hold the hearing of the case related to human rights crusader Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike, with Manipur police submitting the chargesheet a few days back.

In the chargesheet, Porompat police station has charged Sharmila with attempting to commit suicide under Section 309 of the IPC.

The court of the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal East, A. Noutuneshwari, fixed Tuesday for the hearing.

Sharmila has been on a fast since November 5, 2000, demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. She has been booked under Section 309 and released 13 times on completion of one year’s sentence for the offence.

The last time she was freed was on March 13 this year but was re-arrested the next day on the same charge and sent to jail. The chargesheet is related to the latest arrest.

The submission of the chargesheet came after Amnesty International, India demanded the unconditional release of Sharmila in December last year. The demand came a day after a team of Amnesty India met Sharmila in jail on Decemebr 16.

“The governments of Manipur and Delhi should heed the thousands of voices urging them to drop all charges against Irom Sharmila and release her immediately,” said G. Anathapadmanabhan, chief executive of Bangalore-based Amnesty International, India.

Sharmila appointed senior lawyer Khaidem Mani Singh to represent her in the case. Earlier, she did not appoint any lawyer and was represented by a lawyer provided by the government.

“This is for the first time that a chargesheet has been submitted in the case,” Irom Singhajit, elder brother of Sharmila, said.

Legal experts blamed the police for failing to submit the chargesheet earlier.

Mani Singh said earlier she was freed by the courts at the end of a year’s jail term without any trial, which was not a proper legal procedure.

“During the hearing we will argue that Sharmila is not attempting to commit suicide. She is only demanding repeal of the army act, which is not a crime,” Mani, who met Sharmila yesterday, said.

Sharmila appeared before the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal East, today. She has been kept in the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences here and is surviving on forced nasal-feeding.

“I am not trying to commit suicide. I am only using non-violence as a weapon to get the armed forces act repealed. If I wanted to commit suicide I could have done so long ago and no one could have stopped me,” Sharmila told reporters while coming out of the court.