As the debate over the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 continues,the Gauhati High Court has asked the Manipur government to act on an inquiry report on the alleged rape and killing of Manorama Devi.
Manorama,a militant,was allegedly raped and killed by Assam Rifles personnel in July 2004. The killing had triggered large-scale protests in Manipur.
The protests reached a peak when a group of elderly women stripped outside Kangla Fort,then headquarters of Assam Rifles in the trouble-torn state.
The judgment,passed by Justices Amitava Roy and B D Agarwal last Tuesday,said the state government did have the competence to institute a Commission of Inquiry into such acts committed by security forces even if they enjoyed protection and immunity under the Armed Forces Act.
The 17 Assam Rifles had challenged the Manipur governments authority to appoint a probe panel under the Commission of Inquiry Act,1952,against security forces enjoying immunity under the Armed Forces Act.
The judgment came after family members of Manorama filed three writ appeals,requesting that the state government be directed to open and act upon the probe report. A single-judge bench of the Gauhati High Court had on June 22,2005 said the state government did not have administrative control over armed forces entitled to protection,among others,under Section 6 of the Act.
But Justices Roy and Agarwal said that the deployment of Assam Rifles in Manipur did not spell excision of the civil power of the state government.
As a corollary,the state government not only retained its dominion and authority to attend to the immediate demands of public order emerging within its territorial limits,but was essentially obliged to respond thereto under the scheme of Constitutional governance, Justice Roy and Justice Agarwal said.
According to the Assam Rifles,Manorama Devi was a long-serving member of the outlawed Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) and a dreaded terrorist engaged to eliminate high-profile targets and inflict large casualties.
Manorama Devi was picked up by Assam Rifles personnel from her house at Bamon Kampu Mayai Leikei village in Imphal East district around midnight of July 11,2004. Her bullet-ridden body was found at Laipharok Maring village hours later.
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