Drop all charges against Irom Sharmila: ICJ

New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) on Thursday urged the Manipur government to immediately drop all charges against rights activist Irom Sharmila.

“Following the order of a Delhi court acquitting human rights defender Irom Sharmila of an attempt to commit suicide charge under the Indian Penal Code… the case against her in Manipur is, however, still ongoing. The decision of the Delhi court is not binding on the courts in Manipur. The government of Manipur must immediately drop all charges under section 309 against her,” ICJ official Sanhita Ambast told IANS.

A court here on Wednesday acquitted Sharmila, who has been on a 15-year hunger strike demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, of charges of attempt to commit suicide.

Terming the use of section 309 against Sharmila as the “outdated and absurd nature of this law”, ICJ Asia director Sam Zarifi quoted the Supreme Court’s 2011 statement that time has come when the section should be deleted by parliament as it has become anachronistic.

“The government should expedite the repeal of 309 and, instead of criminalising Irom Sharmila’s protest, focus on the reason behind it and repeal the AFSPA,” Zarifi said in a statement.

“The government of Manipur should drop the other charges under section 309 against her, and release her immediately and unconditionally.”

He said that in 2014, the government had announced that it was in the process of repealing section 309.

The ICJ called the Delhi court order a recognition that Sharmila’s hunger strike was a form of peaceful dissent and protest protected by the right to freedom of expression.

Sharmila began a hunger strike in November 2000, demanding that the government repeal the AFSPA, following the killing of 10 civilians by security forces purportedly acting under it in Malom. She was arrested by the Manipur government in 2000 under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which prohibits an attempt to commit suicide.

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