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Much ado about Sharmila

- Manipur checks legal steps to challenge release order

Imphal, Aug. 23: The state law department is exploring ways to approach High Court of Manipur against the order of the sessions judge (Manipur East) to release human rights crusader Irom Sharmila and is also looking for more IPC sections under which she could be booked.

“The experts of the law department are consulting on challenging the sessions judge’s order that led to Sharmila’s release on Wednesday. The department is also working on slapping more charges on Sharmila,” an official source said. He, however, could not say when the government would file the review petition in the high court.

Sharmila was re-arrested yesterday after 40 hours of freedom under Section 309 of the IPC (attempt to commit suicide), a charge for which she has been in judicial custody for the past 14 years. The human rights crusader had begun her fast on November 5, 2000 for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Manipur after 10 civilians were shot dead by security forces on November 2, 2000 in retaliation to a militant attack. She was arrested two days later on November 7 for “attempt to commit suicide”. Since then, every year, she has been re-arrested the day after she was released, kept in judicial custody and forcefully fed through the nose.

On Tuesday, sessions judge A. Guneshwar Sharma ordered Sharmila’s release, setting aside chief judicial magistrate A. Noutuneshwari Devi’s earlier order of framing charges against Sharmila for the offence of attempting to commit suicide under Section 309 IPC. Sharma ruled that the prosecution had failed to prove the charge. Soon after she was released on Wednesday, Sharmila began her fast outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital here and was re-arrested yesterday again under Section 309 IPC. The police did not give any arrest memo to her supporters when they arrested her at 10.30am. They delivered it to her elder brother Irom Singhajit at their home in Imphal East in the afternoon.

The delay in issuing the arrest memo prompted her supporters to term the arrest as “abduction” by the police.

In a letter to the UN high commissioner for human rights, the chief functionary of the Centre for Organisation Research and Education, Imphal, Laifungbam Debabrata Roy, said: “There was no arrest memo served on her and the police provided no specific reason (at the time of the arrest) for the arbitrary and illegal abduction.”

The letter urged the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights to write to Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh, home minister and deputy chief minister Gaikhangam and director-general of police Shahid Ahmed, demanding immediate release of Sharmila. The letter also demanded a judicial investigation into the circumstances of her “abduction” and fixing responsibility for her “abduction” by police personnel of Imphal East. The letter said Sharmila sustained injuries during her arrest yesterday.


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