'Facebook Post Not Seditious', CJM Imphal Refuses To Remand Manipur Student Leader To Police Custody [Read Order]

Student activist Veewon Thokchom was arrested for his Facebook post criticising Citizenship Amendment Bill.

The Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal East has refused to remand Manipur student leader Veewon Thokchom to police custody in a case of sedition slapped against him over a Facebook post critical of Citizenship Amendment Bill. The CJM also allowed the bail application filed by Veewon.

The Facebook post uploaded on February 13 which led to the case is as follows :

"Indefinite curfew imposed in Manipur. Internet banned for five days. All cable networks asked not to cover any speech or footage of the protests. High possibility that CAB (Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019) will be passed today at Rajya Sabha. Manipur once burned down the State Assembly in 2001. Self determination the only way forward"

The Manipur police registered FIR against him under Sections 153A and 124A IPC for this post, and picked him up from Delhi, where he is studying, on February 16. On his production before the CJM on February 19, the police sought for his custody till February 22.

Rejecting this, the CJM Ningthoujam Lanleima observed :

"In the present case, the contents of the Facebook post as mentioned above cannot be stated to bring into hatred or contempt, or excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law. At most, the accused mention the incident of burning of Assembly with approval, but I do not find any attempt or incitement to commit violence. After consideration of materials on record, I do not find the facebook post as mentioned above to be seditious".

Veewon had also filed a bail application, assailing the arrest procedure on the ground that the police had failed to comply with procedures prescribed under section 41 Cr.P.C and flouted the guidelines laid down by the apex court in D.K.Basu's case. He contented that the police came in plain clothes and failed to identify themselves before the arrest and further no arrest memo was issued at the time of arrest. It was also contended that they failed to inform the family members of the accused about the arrest.

Earlier, he had moved the Delhi High Court, challenging the transit remand granted by a Delhi Court on February 16 to take him to Manipur. However, the High Court declined interference. After that he was produced before the CJM, who ordered his release on bail.

It has been held by the SC that remand applications should not be allowed by Magistrates in a mechanical manner and that there should be application of mind to satisfy that reasonable grounds existed to commit the accused to custody.

The North-East witnessed intense debates over Citizenship amendment bill, which was opposed by many on the ground that it legitimised the entry of several illegal migrants so as to disturb the local demographic balance. The Assam police had filed sedition case against Assamese litterateur Hiren Gohain and KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi. They were released on bail only after the intervention of Guwahati High Court.

As per the law laid down by the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath and Balwant Singh cases, offence of sedition under Section 124A IPC can be applied only to acts which have tendency to create public disorder by the use of actual violence or incitement to imminent violence. Mere statements, utterances or slogans, without any disruptive act, will not amount to sedition, as per law laid down in Balwant Singh case.

Read Order

(Image sourced from here)