Manipur | Delhi HC dismisses student activist’s plea in sedition case

Manipur | Delhi HC dismisses student activist’s plea in sedition case

IMPHAL, February 18,2019: The Delhi High Court Monday dismissed a Manipur student activist'splea challenging his arrest and transit remand here in a sedition case againsthim for allegedly making remarks over the controversial Citizenship Bill onsocial media.

Justice Sunil Gaur said prima facie it appeared that VeewonThokchom's act attempted to bring hatred and incite disaffection to thegovernment established by law.

The contentious Citizenship (amendment) Bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha on January 8 but it is set to lapse on June 3 as it was not tabled in the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session after which the Upper House was adjourned sine die on February 13.

Thokchom, former president of Manipur Students' Association,Delhi, was arrested by the Manipur police in Delhi on February 15 and wasproduced before a magistrate here on February 16 who granted five days transitremand till Tuesday.

The Manipur police had taken his transit remand to producehim before the concerned court in Imphal where the FIR was lodged against him.

Thokchom, a civil services aspirant, filed the petitionthrough his brother seeking quashing of the transit remand claiming it to bedefective and without application of mind.

The high court, however, said it found that the remand orderwas not opposed by the 'remand advocate', who appeared on behalf the activistbefore the trial court, and the memo of arrest was offered to be given to his sisterto which there was a resistance.

"In any case, copy of memo of arrest has now beensupplied to petitioner's counsel. It prima facie appears that the act committedby the accused/ petitioner's brother attempts to bring hatred and to incitedisaffection towards the government established by law.

"Finding no infirmity in the impugned order,thispetition and application are accordingly dismissed, while not commenting on themerits of the case," the court said.

During the hearing, the counsel for Manipur police contendedthat misleading facts were being placed before the court by the activist'slawyer and he would be taken to the state to be produced before the concernedcourt tomorrow.

Advocate L Roshmani, representing the Manipur police,submitted that mobile number of the investigating officer was given to theactivist's sister but she resisted and they had also offered to supply copy ofmemo of arrest but it was rejected.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves and advocate Ajay Verma,appearing for Thokchom, said there was a video recording which showed thatdespite requests, copy of memo of arrest was not given to the family membersand the place of his detention has not been disclosed.

They also cited the case of human rights activist GautamNavlakha, who was arrested by the police here and released by the orders of theDelhi High Court in the Bhima Koregaon violence case.

Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehraalong with advocate Jamal Akhtar, said the Manipur police had sought the assistanceof Delhi Police and they made a DD entry about it and their role was limited tothis.

Mehra was also of the view that this cannot be a case ofsedition under Section 124A of the IPC and like this half of the country wouldhave been charged with the provision.

Earlier in the day, the matter was listed before anotherjudge who transferred the petition to another bench for hearing due to sometechnical issues.

Thokchom's counsel claimed that the 23-year-old's arrest wasillegal and after going through the FIR, no criminal offence, includingsedition, was being made out.

He was arrested and charged with sedition for a Facebookpost critical of the Citizenship (amendment Bill). The petition has made stateof Manipur, Delhi Police as also central and Delhi governments as parties.

If convicted, the offence of sedition could entail a maximumpunishment of life imprisonment.

The petition claimed that Thokchom has been actively engagedin the social issues affecting Manipur students in Delhi and elsewhere.

"He has, like millions of other citizens of thiscountry, expressed his dissent about the Citizenship (amendment) Bill,2018," it said.

The plea claimed that Thokchom was assaulted at the time ofarrest in front of his brother and was not given time to inform his family orto wear his clothes and slippers.

Following his arrest, his brother had filed a Habeas Corpuspetition in the high court which was disposed of since a judicial transit remandorder was already passed.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019 provides foraccording Indian citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists andParsis from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan after seven years of residencein India instead of 12 years, which is the norm currently, even if they do notpossess any document.

(PTI)

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