GUWAHATI, July 14: Thounaojam Brinda, a decorated lady officer of Manipur Police, alleged that the Chief Minister N Biren Singh and the police top brass had “pressured” her to let off an arrested drug lord.
In an affidavit, Brinda narrated how she was pressured by the authorities to release Lhukhosei Zhou, the alleged drug lord who was then serving as chairman of the Autonomous District Council (ADC), Chandel, and withdraw the chargesheet filed against him and others in court.
Brinda is facing a contempt case for her “offensive” remarks on Facebook allegedly undermining and criticising the judiciary after Zhou was granted bail by the court of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
Elaborating Zhou’s arrest, Brinda said on the intervening night of June 19, 2018, the sleuths of Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB), led by her, had arrested the man along with seven others and seized 4.595 kg of heroin, 2,80,200 “World is Yours” tablet, Rs 57.18 lakh in cash, another Rs 95,000 old currency notes, and several other incriminating articles.
Soon after the seizure was made, Brinda had received a WhatsApp call from one Moirangthem Asnikumar, a vice-president of the BJP in the state, who made her speak to the CM over the phone.
“I informed the CM that we were about to search the house of an ADC member as we suspected drugs were stashed in his quarters. The CM lauded and told me to go ahead and arrest the ADC member if drugs were found in his quarters,” Brinda said.
She said even as the operation was on, Zhou had repeatedly requested her to come to a compromise and settle the issue but she refused.
“After the drugs were found at his quarters, he asked me to allow him to call the Director General of Police (DGP) and the CM which I did not permit. Then Asnikumar came to my residence…He was in a serious mood…He told me that the arrested ADC member turned out to be the right-hand man of CM’s wife Olice in Chandel and that Olice was furious about the arrest. He told me that CM had ordered that Zhou be exchanged with his wife or son and to release him. I told him how that is possible as the drugs were seized from him and not his wife or son. I told Asnikumar I cannot release the man and thereafter, he left,” Brinda wrote in the affidavit.
She said Asnikumar had visited her again to convey that the CM and his wife were extremely furious about her refusal to release the man and ordered once again to let him off.
“I told him I will not release Zhou and let the investigation and court decide the culpability of the ADC chairman… There were over 150 personnel present in the entire operation along with independent witnesses. I asked how I will answer the whole team and the public… He left again but returned for the third time and told me that the CM and Olice were adamant that I release the ADC chairman under any condition…
“I said I do not need this job and I came back to this service at the request of New Delhi on the promise that I would be supported in the works I do and can leave the job anytime if I am not satisfied (this was agreed between the parties). Thus, this attempt of the CM is to finish my career at the nip by destroying my credibility for his wife’s political interest. I will not release the man,” Brinda wrote in the affidavit.
Subsequently, she said, the then SP, Imphal West, Themthing, visited her residence and she along with him and Asnikumar discussed the matter. She said she had told both of them that it was impossible to release Zhou. On December 14 that year, the SP, NAB told her that the DG of police had called for a meeting at 11 am that day.
“I along with SP, NAB went for the meeting at the DG’s room at Police headquarters. There, the DGP enquired about the chargesheet of the case. I told him that it had reached the court. He told us that the honourable CM wants the chargesheet removed from the court. I told the DG that it is not possible as the chargesheet is already in the court. Further, the DG said, it is the order of the CM that it be removed from the court. The DG then ordered SP, NAB, and me to remove the chargesheet from the court. Later that evening, the SP, NAB came back to the office and told me in my room that he just came back after meeting the CM and that the CM was infuriated that the chargesheet had still not been removed from court,” the affidavit reads.
On January 1, 2019, the Special Judge, NDPS, Yumkham Rother, wrote a letter addressed to the DG of police and to the Secretary, Bar Council of Manipur stating that the then SP of Imphal West and senior advocate H Chandrajit Sharma had reportedly come and met T Bipinchandra, the Special Public Prosecutor, at his office and asked the investigating officer of the case to withdraw the chargesheet against Zou.
On March 3, 2019, a local daily reported “how senior advocate Chandrajit Sharma and SP Jogesh Chandra tried to malign the drug kingpin’s trial… The same day, the SP, NAB issued a press release stating that there was no pressure from anyone on NAB to remove the chargesheet from the court”.
Brinda said the next day, the CM had called her and other police officers to his bungalow in the morning. There he scolded me saying ‘Is this why I gave you gallantry medal. There is something called official secrecy act also’. “The CM gave a thorough scolding especially directed at the SPP and me. I still do not understand why we were reprimanded for dutifully discharging our lawful duty to this day,” Brinda wrote.
She said her remarks on Facebook was not aimed at obstructing or interfering with the course of justice or the due administration of law but was a fair criticism on the conduct and character of the judicial officer/individual who was acting as a Judge but who did not have respect for the chair.
Brinda is an officer of Manipur Police Service. In 2018, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry had awarded her for her outstanding performance in busting several drug rackets. She is also a recipient of the Gallantry Medal and the Chief Minister’s Commendation Certificate.