Manipur Students Activist Released on Bail
February 21, 2019
Student activist from Manipur, Veewon Thokchom, who was arrested last week from his residence in the national capital has been released on bail by a magistrate in Imphal.
Thokchom was arrested on February 16 by a team from the Manipur Police accompanied by Delhi Police personnel from his residence in Saket in Delhi. A case under sedition charges was lodged against the former president of the Manipur Students’ Association in Delhi (MSAD) for posting an update on Facebook that was critical of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.
Police in Manipur had filed the charges for the student leader’s post where he had said: “Indefinite curfew imposed in Manipur. Internet banned for five days. All cable networks asked not to cover any speech or footage of the protest. High possibility that CAB will be passed today at Rajya Sabha. Manipur once burned down the state Assembly in 2001. Self-determination the only way forward”.
Details of Thokchom’s arrest charges and his whereabouts remained a mystery for the first 24 hours of his arrest and he was ultimately brought to Manipur’s capital on Tuesday after the Manipur Police managed to get a transit remand from the Lower Divisional CMM South Saket Court.
He was charged with various offences under the Indian Penal Code, including Section 124 (A).
After being brought to his home state on February 19, Thokchom was immediately produced before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Imphal East district. Police were seeking custody of him till February 22.
Granting bail to Thokchom, the CJM noted that “it is not stated anywhere the accused committed any other act, apart from uploading the said post”.
The court added that the “grant of police custody cannot be conducted in a routine manner, remand prayer is allowed if there exist well-founded accusations for the commission of an offence. There has to be prima facie case that an offence has been committed”.
Dismissing the charge, the court said that Thokchom’s Facebook post “cannot be stated to bring into hatred or contempt, or excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the government”.
The judge said that he does not “find any attempt or incitement to commit violence” and that his Facebook post is not seditious.
Although Thokchom was granted bail, the judge let him off with a warning to “not commit an offence similar to the one he is accused of” and warned him against “directly or indirectly make any inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing such facts to the court or to the police or tamper with evidence”.
He was quoted by a local newspaper saying that “People of Manipur know what is wrong and what is right. I am happy with the decision given by the court today”.
First published in The Citizen.
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