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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Pressure from Manipur CM Biren Singh to drop drugs case: cop to court

The accusation is part of a sworn affidavit filed in Imphal High Court by Additional Superintendent of Police, NAB, Thounaojam Brinda.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi | Updated: July 17, 2020 4:57:22 am
Chief Minister Biren Singh, Additional SP (Narcotics) Thounaojam Brinda.

Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh and a top state BJP leader have been accused by a senior officer of the state Narcotics and Affairs of Border Bureau (NAB) of allegedly putting pressuring on the department to drop the case against a person accused in a drug seizure raid which took place in June 2018.

The accusation come in the form of a sworn affidavit Additional Superintendent of Police, NAB, Thounaojam Brinda filed in Imphal High Court on July 13.

The police have put the value of confiscated illegal narcotics and cash at more than Rs 28 crore.

The prime accused in the case, Lhukhosei Zou, was considered kingpin of the drugs cartel and was also a local BJP leader in Chandel district, according to Brinda’s affidavit.

When contacted by The Indian Express, Chief Minister Biren Singh said, “The matter is sub judice. It would not be legally proper to comment. But it is known to everyone that no person can interfere in any judicial proceedings or court cases; the law takes its own course to meet the ends of justice.”

He said, “For our government, the war on drugs will continue, and no party involved – whether a friend or a relative — would be spared in the campaign…”

According to Brinda’s affidavit, the controversy revolves around a raid carried out across Imphal by NAB teams under her, and subsequent arrests of eight people allegedly found in possession of illicit drugs and cash, on the intervening night of June 19-20, 2018. They were booked under different IPC Sections and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

According to police, 4,595 kg heroin, over 2.8 lakh World is Yours (WY) amphetamine tablets weighing 28 kg and other items were seized during the raids. “Altogether the total seized amount of drugs along with the seized currency was Rs 28,36,68,000 at international market,” the police have said.

According to Brinda, Zou’s arrest became sensational given his political position and strong community base in the border town area of Moreh. At the time of arrest, he was chairman of the 5th Autonomous District Council of Chandel district, the affidavit states. He was elected to the Autonomous District Council (ADC) in June 2015 on a Congress ticket.

In September 2015, he became chairman of ADC Chandel district and later joined the BJP in April 2017, it says.

Brinda said that since the arrest, both she and her department have been under pressure to drop the case against Zou.

On the raids, Brinda told The Indian Express: “One of the accused we had arrested earlier that evening told us that there were drugs with Zou’s driver. When we went looking for him, he (Zou) said his driver was in Guwahati. He refused to let us search his house. We nabbed the driver nevertheless after extensive searches that evening — he informed us that there were drugs at Zou’s residence. When we went back, Zou refused to let us search. There was a scuffle between NAB boys and his men. We finally searched his home (and) found the drugs.”

In March 2019, Zou received bail, which he jumped and fled across the border to Myanmar. He surrendered in February this year and his bail hearing came up before Imphal HC, where the judge held that “everyone is innocent until proven guilty’’.

Brinda filed a complaint against the judge with the Registrar of Imphal High Court last month. Subsequently, after lashing out at the judge in a social media post, Brinda was served a contempt notice this month. She filed this affidavit in response on July 13.

“This was a big drug haul for the NAB and was a result of a recent raid in Jowai in Meghalaya where a large amount of WY tablets were seized,” Brinda, who joined NAB in March 2018, just three months before the raid, stated. “The Meghalaya accused pointed to the accused in Manipur who were a part of the same cartel. The war on drugs that the government talks about was actually revived in 2018. Over the past few years, the drug route from Afghanistan-Pakistan had dwindled and instead had shifted to the Manipur-Myanmar border. Indian drug lords now prefer this route and huge consignments of drugs are flooding the market and makes its way across the country all the way down to Kerala even.

“This is what we are trying to curtail. All the hill districts are covered with poppy plantations, and yet the government of Manipur, for the past 30 years, doesn’t even have data on how much area is covered by poppy growing.”

A Manipur state police service officer of 2012 batch, Brinda was conferred the state’s Police Medal for Gallantry by the state government for her work against smuggling and sale of drugs. The Chief Minister awarded Rs 10 lakh to the NAB team for the seizure of Rs 100 crore worth of drugs, one of the biggest hauls in Manipur.

Earlier, Brinda’s appointment had been put on hold by the previous Congress government on grounds that she is daughter-in-law of Rajkumar Meghan, former chairman of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), one of the Northeast’s biggest insurgent outfits. The state government allowed her to join the police force after Brinda approached the Guahati High Court but resigned in 2016.

After the BJP formed its first government in the Northeast in 2017, Brinda was reinstated in the police force at the behest of the Centre.

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