Meghalaya legislator Julius Dorphang, accused of raping a minor, has been appointed as member of two assembly panels, evoking strong opposition from a women’s group.
The Meghalaya State Commission for Protection of Child Rights on Monday appealed to Assembly Speaker Abu Taher Mondal to “re-look” into the appointment of Dorphang as a member of the Committee of Privileges and the Committee on Subordinate Legislation.
The Meghalaya State Commission for Women said the nomination of the legislator reflected that the state government was “very insensitive” towards the crime committed by the legislator.
The former Chairman of the outlawed Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC)-turned-Independent legislator is lodged in Shillong jail, facing trial in the case of raping a 14-year-old girl.
“Since he has already been accused of offence under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act, there are other members of the assembly who could have been appointed. I condemn this act of the assembly,” State Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson Meena Kharkongor told journalists.
When it was pointed out that the legislator was yet to be convicted by the court, Kharkongor explained that POCSO was different from other Acts.
“This Act (POCSO) says that it is not for the prosecution to establish the offence of a person, but it is the accused himself who has to prove his innocence that he has not committed the offence. The burden lies with the accused not with prosecution,” she said.
“We are utterly dismayed at this decision… when charges have been framed against the accused and the matter is sub-judice, then how can the state government take such a decision? This has greatly hurt the sentiments of women and girls in the state,” State Women’s Commission Chairperson Theilin Phanbuh said.
Opposition Independent legislator Saleng A. Sangma, who is Chairman of the Committee of Privileges, said it was the Speaker’s prerogative to appoint members of the House to various assembly committees.
“It is the Speaker’s prerogative. I have nothing to comment on it,” Saleng told IANS.
IANS, however, was unable to reach Speaker Abu Taher Mondal for his comments.
The other members of the Committee of Privileges include Winnerson D. Sangma and Dikkanchi D. Shira (both from the Congress), and United Democratic Party legislator Paul Lyngdoh.
Dorphang, who is supporting the ruling Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government has also been appointed on the Committee on Subordinate Legislation, headed by Nationalist Congress Party legislator Sanbor Shullai.
The other members on the panel include Saleng Sangma, United Democratic Party legislator Titosstarwell Chyne and Hill State People’s Democratic Party legislator Phlastingwell Pangniang.
The Civil Society Women’s Organisation (CSWO) has also strongly opposed the appointment of Dorphang as member of the assembly panels.
“We strongly oppose this appointment… Is this how Meghalaya government is awarding the alleged rapist instead of speeding up justice for the victim,” CSWO President Agnes Kharshiing asked.
Earlier this year, Meghalaya Police had chargesheeted Dorphang and five others in a case of human trafficking and sexual abuse of the minor girl.
Dorphang has been chargesheeted under Section 5(c)/(1)/6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, for “committing aggravated penetrative sexual assault by a public servant and committing the same more than once”.