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`Set aside proceedings against Assam Rifles personnel'

By Iboyaima Laithangbam

IMPHAL, AUG. 19. Col. Jag Mohan, Commandant of 17 Assam Rifles, has requested the Manorama Death Inquiry Commission to set aside the proceedings against Assam Rifles personnel since a petition had been filed in the Guwahati High Court.

The Commission is probing what happened to Thangjam Manorama when she was arrested by some personnel of 17 Assam Rifles on July 11. Later, her bullet-ridden body was handed over to the State police saying that she was gunned down while trying to flee.

Initially, the Assam Rifles personnel refused to appear before the Commission located just across the road on "security" grounds. The Commission had directed the police to beef up security measures.

As per schedule, Col. Jag Mohan, Digambar Dutta, Naik Subedar, Suresh, Ajit and T. Lotha, riflemen, were to depose before the Commission on Wednesday. Earlier, no officer or security guard accepted the Commission's summons.

The petition in the High Court says that the Commission is summoning persons who are not under its jurisdiction. In the past, some judicial inquiry commissions had been wound up on technical grounds. Under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, no prosecution process can be initiated against personnel of the Central forces without first obtaining the Centre's approval.

In the wake of the current State-wide agitation against the death Manorama, the Assam Rifles has instituted a court of inquiry. The inquiry could not be completed since Manorama's bedridden mother could not come to the court. In the case of the Commission, a Commissioner had gone to her home to take her statement. Assam Rifles says there were some "lapses" on the part of its personnel. But there does not seem to have any plan to send officials of the court of inquiry to complete it.

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