MHRC chairman Justice Vaiphei chaired first hearing on killing of Cherishterfield Thangkhiew

Shillong: In a major development in the judicial inquiry into the killing of ex-HNLC militant Cherishterfield Thangkhiew, chairman of Meghalaya Human Rights Commission (MHRC) Justice T Vaiphei chaired the first hearing in Shillong on Friday.

Justice Vaiphei said the Meghalaya police had filed an application requesting the commission to conduct in-camera proceedings of the inquiry and exclude the public and family members of the deceased.

“An in-camera proceeding can be allowed, if a request is made by the state government. However, there is the question of whether to include or exclude the families of the victims?,” Justice Vaiphei said.

The chairman said the request for in-camera proceedings was allowed with a rider that only the learned counsel for the family of the victim will be allowed to participate in the proceedings and no other person except officials of the commission, police officials concerned, counsel for the family and the commission will be allowed in the court room.

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Justice Vaiphei said the evidence of the state government will be taken on January 14 and 15, if they are produced, which will then be the second hearing expected to be held.

The commission chairman said he can’t answer how many hearings it will take as there are several witnesses in the case but he assured to have continuous sitting, subject to the availability of the counsel, and that he was determined to complete the inquiry at the earliest.

It may be mentioned that a judicial inquiry was initiated by the state government last year after a massive law and order situation erupted in the state following the death of Thangkhiew at his residence in Mawlai during the wee hours of August 13, 2021.

The police had claimed that Thangkhiew was killed in retaliatory firing as the former militant had tried to attack the police with a knife. 

This led to several questions like the comparison between the weapon used by Thangkhiew versus the one used by the police. Questions were also raised about the timing of the encounter. 

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