“I am of the opinion that criticism in Indian democracy is acceptable but when it becomes sarcasm, the person who originates or publishes the same is liable to be booked for allegedly committing the offence of criminal defamation apart from other relevant offences,” said the Imphal West CJM
A former finance secretary of All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) has been remanded in judicial custody for 12 days till July 09, 2021 for a post on social media platforms targeting Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh.
The individual has been identified as Henkhokai Singsit a.k.a Kakai Singsit, aged about 36 years S/o Khupsei Singsit, a permanent resident of Motbung, PO Motbung, PS GS Sapermeina under Kangpokpi District.
He was arrested for allegedly a facebook post critical of CM Biren. An FIR 98(06)2021 IPS U/S 294/509/34 IPC & 67-A IT Act was filed consequently. The Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal West issued an order on June 24.
The accused, Henkhokai Singsit was produced before the court through video conference (using Jitsi Meet), due to the prevailing situations induced by COVID-19 pandemic, with a prayer for remanding the accused in judicial custody for 15 days till July 12, 2021.
An application was also filed on behalf of the accused praying for rejecting the remand prayer of the IO and to release him on bail.
The APP for the state submitted that the accused person under his Facebook profile name “Kakai Singsit” posted a statement which went viral. It was submitted that the statement posted by the accused in social media was “giving a direct insult, disaffection, disloyalty to the present chief minister N Biren Singh”.
The APP also submitted that the statement of the accused promotes or attempts to promote, on ground of religion, caste or community a disharmony feelings of enmity, hatred or ill will between different religious, racial language or regional group of community, to act prejudicial to maintenances of harmony which is likely to disturb the public tranquility. It was also added that the statement instigated or incited all the tribal people to revolt against the chief minister to throw him out. Hence, prayer for remanding the accused person into judicial custody to refrain him from absconding without any leads to trace was made.
On the other hand, the counsel for the accused submitted that the accused is a former financial secretary of All Tribal Student Union Manipur (ATSUM) and an active social worker. It was submitted the accused’s wife has expired leaving their two children and he is caring for the children.
The counsel submitted that the charges leveled against the accused are under the sections of the IPC and that the nature of the case is under the law and section of Cyber Crime (IT Act, 2000). The counsel argued that the accused has not made any statement against the country, or against any government or against the people of the land, as such Section 124-A IPC is not applicable in this case.
The counsel further contended that the accused person was merely exercising his right to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution of India. The accused is quite innocent of the charges levelled against him and there is no iota of evidence against the accused, the counsel argued and prayed the court for rejecting the remand prayer of the IO and to grant bail.
On hearing and perusal of the facts and materials on record placed before him, the CJM stated in the order that: “I am of the opinion that the remarks made by him are communal in the sense that he termed a democratically elected chief minister as destroyer of tribal people.”
Further, the accused, with his remarks, is making a false alarm amongst the masses that the chief minister is likely to do communally biased acts and the same is slanderous and misleading, the CJM noted.
“I am of the opinion that criticism in Indian democracy is acceptable but when it becomes sarcasm, the person who originates or publishes the same is liable to be booked for allegedly committing the offence of criminal defamation apart from other relevant offences,” the CJM added in the order.
Henkhokai Singsit was earlier arrested in April along with two members of ATSUM — Khaiminlen Doungel and Simthar Jajo in connection with the stir by the apex tribal students’ body against the delay in conducting the ADC election.
ATSUM had called a total shutdown demanding their release. After a “mutual understanding” was reached between the state government and the student body, the trio was released and the shutdown was called off.
As for the latest arrest of its former finance secretary, ATSUM has not reacted till the filing of this report.