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Minors allegedly murder girl in Manipur, AHRC demands probe
Demanding a thorough and independent investigation into the suspected murder and rape of a 16-year-old girl in Manipur's Imphal West district, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has said that the murder of the girl 'doesn't condone overlooking the crime of rape.'

The girl reported to be a resident of Pishak of Luker Mayai Leikai, was discarded in a stream in Imphal West district near the Lansang Police Station and found by fishermen on 5 March 2013. She was last seen alive on 2 March 2013 at around 9pm when she left her parents’ house with the intention of going to her grandmothers’ home in Maklang.

Her body, according to AHRC, was found half clothed and had many injuries around her head, lips, and face. A phanek (loincloth), believed to be hers was found several hundred meters away on the shore. The Lamshang Police retrieved the body and deposited it at Regional Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) mortuary for autopsy.

A post mortem examination conducted at the RIMs indicated that she had been four months pregnant. No information regarding the paternity of the foetus has been reported. On 6 March 2013 at around 11am, 28-year-old Ningthoujam Sanjit of Tairenpokpi Chingtaba surrendered to Lamshang Police Station of Imphal West District claiming responsibility for her murder.

He stated to have been in love with her, despite the fact that he has since been involved with another woman. According to her mother, her affair with the man began 7- 8 months previous to the event and the man had called her repeatedly on 2 March 2013.

The police released Sanjit on 8 March 2013 and then arrested two children, whom Sanjit claims to have hired to kill her. Both boys were produced in the court on 23 March and later detained in judicial custody.

The day after girl’s body was found, a public meeting was held at Luker Mayai Leikai, where the attendees formed the JAC against her killing. The members lobbied for the immediate arrest of the culprits, and just punishment of the same. The JAC filed a complaint on her behalf and vowed to continue campaigning until justice is delivered on her behalf.

Additionally, the committee pushed for the State Assembly of Manipur to discuss the increasing levels of crime against women in the state. The public meeting also resolved to push for the state government to discuss remedies for violence towards women during the next assembly session.

According to AHRC, the circumstances surrounding C1's death are highly suspicious. Not only was she a minor, but also she was four months pregnant. Because of her pregnancy, and the ambiguous nature of her relationship with Sanjit (who is allegedly in a relationship with another woman), notice should be paid to the intentions behind her murder.

It is worthy to note that more than one crime has been committed. Sanjit’s employing the help of two minors to commit an act of murder makes him equally palpable for prosecution in this case. Regardless of the execution of the crime, Sanjit has expressly stated that he has conspired with two other individuals to commit a crime, an offense that is equally punishable under the law.

The AHRC said that the investigation should be conducted to determine if there was indeed, sexual violence before the victim was murdered. Simply because the girl was subsequently murdered does not condone overlooking the crime of rape. Lack of effective police training on how to conduct investigations properly without contaminating evidence is also a culprit behind the miscarriage of justice in persecuting murder rape cases.

As of the information received by the AHRC, there is no physical evidence against Sanjit, only his confession, and further evidence has not been mounted to develop a case against him. The circumstances under which Sanjit confessed also must be investigated.

Because the state of Manipur is an area of conflict where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958, (AFSPA) is enforced, AHRC felt that great care must be undertaken regarding the prosecution of minors to ensure that their rights are not violated and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000 (JJ Act) is respected. Minors under the age of 18 should be tried by the Juvenile Justice Board and are still party to the rights of adults, including freedom from torture.

The AHRC deplored that the state police in Manipur lack both resources and training to undertake scientific investigation of crimes. Additionally the police also suffer from deep demoralization, evidenced from the high number of extra-judicial executions and the widespread practice of torture reported from Manipur, against which the Supreme Court of India is undertaking an inquiry at the moment.

The state also lacks adequate facilities for advanced criminal investigations, like forensic laboratories with equipment’s as well as experts to undertake scientific criminal investigations. This, to a certain degree forces the police to resort to crude and unscientific investigations of crime, most of it depending on forced confessions extorted through torture and intimidation. In this aspect the liability for failing to provide for such facilities falls directly upon the state government.

The AHRC said that the JJ Act requires minors to be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board, and not in a regular court. Unfortunately the concept of 'juvenile justice' is absent in Manipur. Though the state administration claims that it has setup JJ Boards in all nine districts, in practice such facilities do not exist in the state. Due to the state government's failure to establish the Boards, the central government's Project Approval Board, vide its decision dated 17 January 2012, has suspended all financial support to the Government of Manipur, concerning the JJ Act. Due to this, the children suspected in this case will also end up in regular detention centers intended for the grown-ups, diminishing their possibility to be rescued from the life they live at the moment.

The AHRC also demanded that the background under which the two minors got involved in the crime, as alleged by the first accused is investigated; the minors accused in the case are treated as specified in the JJ Act and the state government of Manipur undertakes its responsibilities as required in the JJ Act.

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