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Court orders release of Irom Sharmila from jail

Imphal, Aug 19 (PTI): A local court on Tuesday ordered the release of rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, under detention for attempting to commit suicide by fasting for nearly 14 years demanding the withdrawal of a tough law that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces.

Absolving her of the charge of attempt to suicide, sessions judge (Imphal east) A Guneshwar Sharma said, “The petitioner (Sharmila) be released from custody if not required in any other case.”

The prosecution, he said, had “failed miserably” to establish her intention to commit suicide by fasting unto death and there was no evidence of the alleged offence, which is punishable under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

Sharmila's agitation was a political demand through a lawful means of repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 and from her past conduct it seems she may continue with her fast till her demand is met politically by the government, the court said.

In the circumstances, the state government may take up appropriate measures for her health and safety such as nose feeding in case she decides to continue with her fast, the judge said.

Sharmila, 42, was being kept at the government hospital at Porompat here where a room was converted into a jail. She is being fed through her nose.

She is released and re-arrested every year as the law allows detention only for 364 days.

The state police had earlier filed cases under different provisions of CrPC stating that Sharmila was attempting to commit suicide by fasting, for more than 13 years.

While Y Indira represented the government, Sharmila was represented by senior advocate and well-known human rights activist Khaidem Mani.

The activist had launched her fast after the killing of 10 people allegedly by the paramilitary Assam Rifles in a suspected encounter with insurgents at Malom near Imphal airport in November 2000.

She has been under arrest since then and has been released from time to time but continued her fast for the past more than one decade.