Women’s groups in Meghalaya, including the chairperson of the State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights (SCPCR), have strongly objected to the appointment of Julius Dorphang, a legislator currently in jail after being arrested on a rape charge, as a member of the Assembly Privilege Committee and are moving Speaker Abu Taher Mondal to reconsider the “shocking” appointment.
“Members of various women’s groups and other civil society organisations in Meghalaya are naturally shocked at the appointment of Julius Dorphang as a member of the Assembly Privilege Committee. Dorphang has been in judicial custody after he was arrested in connection with a rape case in January this year. While these groups are writing a memorandum to the Speaker and Governor against this appointment, I am also definitely signing it,” Meghalaya SCPCR chairperson Meena Kharkongor told The Indian Express on Monday.
Kharkongor described Dorphang’s appointment to a crucial committee of the state assembly as “shocking” and said the Speaker should immediately reconsider his decision. “We know that the Speaker is the custodian of the state assembly can appoint any member of the House in any of the several committees. But then, this is a case where the MLA is already in custody after being accused in a rape case. Moreover, he also has a background of having been in an armed insurgent group,” Kharkongor, who was also a complainant in the case in which Dorphang was arrested, said.
“I am not only signing the memorandum as a chairperson of the SCPCR but also as a concerned citizen. The Speaker must reconsider his decision. This man, who has a background of being an armed insurgent, is in custody and the trial is on. There are so many other MLAs who could have been considered,” she said. Interestingly, Kharkongor will be deposing before the POCSO court in Shillong on Tuesday in connection with the rape of a minor by MLA Dorphang.
Dorphang, a former leader of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), an armed insurgent group, was elected MLA from Mawhati LAC in 2013. He was arrested in Guwahati on January 7, 2017, after several cases were registered against him in connection with the alleged repeated rape of a minor, at least once in a guest house owned by the family of a powerful minister of the state. While the police had slammed Section 366 (A) of the IPC, Section 3 (a)/4 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act) and Section 5 of the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA) against him, a Shillong court had issued a non-bailable warrant against him.
The views of Speaker Mondal, however, was not available despite repeated calls on his mobile as also a message sent by SMS till late Monday evening. One local report quoting the Speaker, however, said the latter had only extended the term of the Privilege Committee of which MLA Dorphang was a member. “What an excuse. Couldn’t he have been removed while extending the Committee’s tenure? Don’t they suspend an officer immediately when he or she is arrested on any charge? And this is a heinous crime under POCSO,” said Agnes Kharshiing, president of Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO), a leading women’s group of the state.
“What an excuse. Couldn’t he have been removed while extending the Committee’s tenure? Don’t they suspend an officer immediately when he or she is arrested on any charge? And this is a heinous crime under POCSO,” said Agnes Kharshiing, president of Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO), a leading women’s group of the state.