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Machang, who spent 54 years in jail without trial, dies

Special Correspondent

— PHOTO: RITU RAJ KONWAR

Machang Lalung (second right) seen with Assamese cine artist Indra Bania, and Aneisha Sharma, director of the short film “Freedom At The Edge,” during its first screening in Guwahati in this file photo.

Guwahati: Machang Lalung, who spent 54 years in prison without trial, died at his ancestral residence at Silchang in Morigaon district on Tuesday night following a brief illness. He was 79.

He was released in July 2005 on the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) from the LGB Regional Institute of Mental Health at Tezpur.

It was NHRC Special Rapporteur Chaman Lal who brought the shocking neglect of five undertrial prisoners, including Machang, at the hospital to the notice of commission.

NHRC found that Machang, who was only 23 when he was arrested in 1951 from his native village, was never produced in a court though he was declared fit to stand trial after August 9, 1967. He remained an undertrial prisoner in a case under Section 326 of the Indian Penal Code. The NHRC ordered the Assam government to release him immediately.

Later the Supreme Court took a suo motu case and ordered the State government to pay Machang a compensation of Rs.3 lakh and Rs.1,000 every month for life.

Medical and Health Officer, Nellie State Dispensary, Jayanta Kumar Nath told The Hindu that Machang died of “geriatric ailment.”

The funeral was attended, among others, by Guwahati-based filmmaker Aneisha Sharma whose 27-minute film “Freedom at the edge” on Machang’s confinement bagged an award at the Boston International Film Festival this year.

Machang saw the film when it was screened in Guwahati on June 29 this year. He was seated in the front row next to the then Chief Judicial Magistrate, Kamrup (Metropolitan), H.K. Sarma, who ordered his release on a token personal bond of Re. 1.

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