Shillong, Sep 30: An advice by a legal expert of the Meghalaya government to officials not to appear before the Assam commission of inquiry into the Mukroh firing incident turned counterproductive resulting in Meghalaya losing out on the findings of the commission of inquiry headed by Justice (retired )T Vaiphei after both the panels were scrapped on Saturday.
The probe was following the violent incident of November 22 last year which resulted in the death of five persons, including an Assam forest guard at Mukroh.
Vaiphei commission had earlier probed the manner in which former HNLC leader Cherishstarfield Thangkhiew was killed and fixed responsibility on the police personnel involved in the crime.
The meeting of chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya held at Khanapara, Guwahati decided to wind up both the judicial inquires and to revive the CBI probe into the matter though it was taken up with the Centre soon after the Incident on November 22 last year.
The decision comes 10 months after the incident.
It is yet to be known whether Meghalaya raised any objection during the meeting to the suggestion of winding up the Vaiphei panel.
An official source said that Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s statement before the media on Saturday that Assam officials did not appear before the Meghalaya judicial inquiry commission headed by Vaiphei is not true as the orders of the commission during each hearing reveal that Assam officials assisted by their lawyers appeared before the commission and cooperated. They were also cross-examined.
The orders also reveal that the inquiry by Vaiphei progressed and was at the last stage compared to other inquires which used to take two- three years for completion.
This contradicts the statement of Assam chief minister that the Meghalaya inquiry commission did not make progress.
When contacted, Vaiphei did not want to make any comments on the matter.
Sources said that Assam and Meghalaya should have pursued the CBI probe into the matter instead of instituting two inquiry panels on the same matter soon after the incident and scrapping of the inquiries now has resulted in waste of money and energy.
An Assam legal source said that Meghalaya Advocate General gave the idea to the state government to abstain from the hearing of the the one-person inquiry commission headed by Justice Rumi Kumari Phukan (retd) instituted by the Assam government.
Phukan came for a sitting at the Conference Hall, Assam House, Shillong on August 7 but returned as nobody turned up which was a humiliation.
According to sources, the state government was made to believe that appearing before the Assam commission will substantiate the neighbouring state’s claim over Mukroh.
However, the mandate of the judicial inquiry commission was not to focus on the border dispute but to find out the truth behind the firing incident.
The matter for hearing by the Assam commission was notified on August 4 for appearance of the interested and willing persons having knowledge of the
incident to give evidence. The government of Meghalaya was also notified and requested to produce all the relevant witnesses and documents before the commission, as a last instance.
Further the DC, West Khasi Jaintia Hills was also directed to serve notice upon the
relevant witnesses to appear before the commission but there was no response from the government.
“With deep concern, the commission has closed the proceeding (hearing) from
Meghalaya side and returned to Guwahati”, a statement by the secretary of the commission had said.
Later on September 20, the commission submitted the report to Assam government.
As far as Vaiphei commission of inquiry is concerned, the last sitting was on September 29 and one more hearing was fixed for October 6 following which the commission was to visit Mukroh before submitting the report. Curiously, the state government on September 30 extended the tenure of the commission till December to enable it to complete the report.
While Assam inquiry panel was entrusted with the task on November 23 last year, a day after Vaiphei, who is the chairperson of Meghalaya State Human Rights Commission, was asked to probe the incident by the state government.