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HC Nullifies MP Dr Lorho Pfoze’s Election, Declares Benjamin Mate Elected; Many Protest Cabinet Decision to Lift Alcohol Prohibition, CADA Demands White Paper

HC Nullifies MP Dr Lorho Pfoze’s Election, Declares Benjamin Mate Elected

BJP’s Benjamine Mate (left) and NPF’s Dr Lorho Pfoze (right)

A single bench of the Manipur High Court on September 23 sets aside Naga People’s Front -NPF’s Dr Lorho S Pfoze’s election as Outer Manipur MP following mistakes in his nomination paper and declared BJP candidate Houlim Shokhopao Mate also popularly known as Benjamin Mate of the BJP as the new MP from Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency.

The order passed by Justice MV Muralidaran on September 23 while allowing Benjamin Mate’s petition declared Dr Lorho Pfoze’s election as null and void.

An election petition was filed by the H S Mate aka Benjamin under Section 100(1)(d) (i) &(iv) and under Section 100(1)(b) of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (the RP Act) to declare that the election of Lorho S Pfoze from 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 as null and void and to declare him as the duly elected member in the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 from 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency under Section 101 of the RP Act.

In the petition, Benjamin challenged the election of Lorho stating that during scrutiny, the Returning Officer of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency abruptly and improperly accepted the nomination papers of Lorho on March 21, 2019.

Benjamin pointed out that Lorho kept Column 5 of Para 4 of the affidavit in Form 26 dated 21.03.2019 as blank; gross total value disclosed by him at Para 7-A(ix) is incorrect; material information pertaining to his non-agricultural lands and other interest in immovable properties at Para 7-B (ii) and (v) despite owning immovable properties; failed to disclose the relevant details for showing a sum of Rs 1,12,50,000 at Para 7-B (vi); false information at Para (9B)(f); falsely shown Rs. 3,24,704 and Rs 2,20,648 respectively at Part-B, Para (11)8(A) for the candidate and his spouse; particulars shown at Para (11)8B(iii)(b) of Part B, as the first respondent disclosed only a sum of Rs 80,00,000 being the value of the inherited immovable property at Part A, Para 7B(iv).

The High Court after perusal of the affidavit in Form 26 of Dr Lorho found that Lorho kept Column 5 of Para 4 of the affidavit blank. Further in Para 7-A(ix), he has not correctly disclosed the gross total value for himself and his spouse. Similarly, in Para 7-B(ii) and (v), he failed to disclose information about non-agricultural lands and other interest in immovable properties.

Further, Lorho failed to disclose the relevant details for showing a sum of Rs 1,12,50,000 at Para 7-B (vi). He has also furnished false information in Para (9B)(f). Lorho falsely showed Rs 3,24,704 and Rs 2,20,648 respectively at Part-B, Para (11)8(A) for himself and his spouse. False particulars are shown at Para (11)8B(iii)(b) of Part B, as the first respondent disclosed only a sum of Rs. 80,00,000 being the value of the inherited immovable property at Part A, Para 7B(iv), the Court found.

The High Court noted that it is pertinent to point out that the provision of RP Act provides for filing of maximum four nomination papers, but as per Section 33A of the RP Act read with Rule 4A and that the candidate is required to file a duly sworn affidavit under Form 26 along with the nomination papers containing true and correct facts along with complete information, which cannot be different. The four nomination papers must be accompanied with the same affidavit under Form 26, the order stated.

In the case on hand, as stated supra, Lorho left column 5 of para 4 of the affidavit in Form 26 dated 21.3.2019 blank, which was also admitted by the first respondent in his evidence. Acceptance of such unfilled and/or blank affidavit by the Returning Officer is against the provisions of law and also amounts to improper acceptance.

As per the instructions of the Election Commission of India, a separate bank account, exclusively for the purpose of election expenditure, is required to be opened to facilitate monitoring of the election expenditure. The officially uploaded affidavit in Form 26 of the petitioner is dated 21.03.2019. Thus, it is clear that on the date of filing of the nomination papers, i.e., March 21, 2019, no bank account was opened by Lorho. It clearly proves that he has violated the notification dated 15.10.2013 of the ECI.

Lorho admitted that the separate bank account for election was opened only on March 24, 2019 after an affidavit in Form 26 was submitted on March 21, 2019 and that he violated the ECI Notification. That apart, he did not maintain his election expenditures as per the instructions/guidelines of the ECI, the court said.

“A candidate is not free to spend as much as he likes in the election. The law prescribes that the total election expenditure shall not exceed the maximum limit prescribed under Rule 90 of the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. For the State of Manipur in the 17th Lok Sabha Election, 2019, a candidate can spend up to Rs.70 lakh”, stated the HC.

Dr Lorho’s expenses of Rs 74,13,218, which is beyond Rs70 lakh as prescribed by the ECI, is clearly beyond the permitted limit, the HC stated.

From the oral and documentary evidence, it is clear that the Returning Officer improperly accepted the nomination paper of Dr Lorho. It is the duty of the RO to check whether the information required is fully furnished at the time of filing of affidavit with the nomination paper since such information is very vital for giving effect to the right to know of the citizens.

It is also clear that the affidavit which was said to be accepted by the RO has not been uploaded in the official website of the ECI as mandated under law. Additionally, the non-dissemination of the affidavit in Form 26 dated 25.3.2019 through the website materially affected the election of Dr Lorho.

The High Court of Manipur opined that Lorho has violated the instructions/notification/ guidelines of the Election Commission of India and the mandatory provisions of the RP Act in committing illegality in the election expenditures and also exceeded the maximum limit for expenditures as prescribed.

The act of Dr Lorho would amount to corrupt practice and therefore, it materially affected the result of the election of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019 as the affidavit in Form 26 filed by Lorho suffers from the defects of substantial character.

Lorho got 3,63,527 votes and Benjamin got 2,89,745 votes. The next person securing highest votes among contesters in the election is ThangminlienKipgen (National People’s Party) with 1,52,510 votes. The first respondent was declared as elected member of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency in the General Election to 17th Lok Sabha, 2019. The difference between Benjamin and Thangminlien Kipgen is 1,37,235 votes.

There were eight candidates in the fray, the claim of Benjamin to declare him as an elected member cannot be denied for the reason that among all the candidates contested, Benjamin secured the highest votes after Lorho, the Court said.

Consequent findings by the HC stated that the election of Dr Lorho is declared null and void and that Benjamin is entitled to be declared as elected member of 2-Outer Manipur (ST) Parliamentary Constituency in the General Election to the 17th Lok Sabha, 2019.

Sit in Protest by Meira Paibis Against Prohibition lifting

In protest against the lifting of total prohibition on selling and brewing of alcoholic liquors by Manipur Government, a sit-in-protest participated by women leaders, Meira Paibis was staged on September 23 at the Community Hall of Keishampat Leimajam Leikai, Sega Road in Imphal under the aegis of Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA). CADA is a civil society organisation which has been actively campaigning against the abuse of psychotropic drugs, alcoholic liquors and other intoxicants in Manipur for the last 16 years.

Later Manipur Police clashed with the protestors when the Sit-in-Protest turned into a rally marching towards Chief Minister’s Secretariat at about 3:30 PM to submit a memorandum demading revokation of the State Government’s decision lifting total prohibition on selling and brewing of alcoholic liquors.

However, a strong team of police blocked the slogan shouting rally on the way and when the protesters tried to carry forward despite the restriction, the clash broke out. The police, however later, took control of the situation after a brief tussle.

The cabinet of the Nongthombam Biren’s government on September 20 approved a proposal for partial lifting of the prohibition and regulating selling and brewing of alcoholic liquors in Manipur. Manipur became a dry state with effect from April 1, 1991 after the enactment of the Manipur Liquor Prohibition Act, 1991.

While strongly condemning the government’s decision, the CADA and Nupi Samaj, a pioneer and powerfull women’s organisation and other organisations, mostly women, have been pressing the state government to withdraw the decision.

CADA Demands White Paper

Earlier, condemning the state cabinet decision to lift prohibition, the CADA on September 21 demanded the government to immediately revoke the cabinet decision to regulate selling and brewing of alcoholic liquor in the state.

Such a move of the state government to benefit some allied entrepreneurs will lower the morale and character of the youths, especially women, besides creating health issues in every family across the state, CADA Secretary General Geetchandra Mangang said while speaking to the media at CADA office in Imphal East.

“Will anything which is uncontrollable be legalised? Is the government also going to legalise drugs, corruption and prostitution which is uncontrollable?” he questioned stating such a concept is not right.

“We demand a white paper from the government so that the public may discuss the merits and demerits of lifting the prohibition on selling and brewing of alcoholic liquors.  But Manipur Government failed to respond to the demands,” Geetchandra said, adding that the protest will continue.

NUPI SAMAJ Demands Revocation of Government’s Decision

All Manipur Women’s Social Reformation and Development Samaj popularly known as Nupi Samaj, an apex body of women based organisations registered a strong objection to the recent Manipur cabinet decision to partially lift prohibition on liquor.

The organisation demands that the Manipur Government must review the cabinet decision that was taken to legalise brewing and selling of liquor. Leaders of Nupi Samaj warned of intense forms of agitations. Addressing reporters at its office in Imphal September 22, Nupi Samaj president Th Ramani cautioned that women in the state will launch various forms of intense agitations if the state government fails to review the decision. She alleged that over 40 years of campaign by women against liquor and abuse of drugs went in vain by that decision of the government.

Ramani said that the government had taken the decision by sidelining the long struggle of women against liquor to save the society. “The Chief Minister must immediately review the decision”, she added. “If no positive response comes forth from the government, the Nupi Samaj is ready to launch various forms of intense agitations along with like-minded civil society organisations,” she also said. The decision to lift the prohibition showed that the government sees only the revenue to be generated and not the negative impact being given to society, Ramani alleged.

Govt Planning for Beer Factory

While CADA, NUPI SAMAJ and other organisations demanding to revoke the Cabinet decision to partially lift prohibition of selling and brewing of alcohol liquor, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren remains firm. Besides sale and distillation of local brew and IMFL in selected spots, he is now talking of establishing a beer factory based on pineapple and ginger in Manipur.

As people from outside the state are becoming fond of our horticulture products, our local brews could be exported outside and this would also encourage those people who had earlier carried poppy plantations to replace it with alternative crops like pineapple and ginger, he said.

Reiterating that the Cabinet decision to lift prohibition on sale and consumption of liquor from the State was taken after holding thorough discussion and taking recommendation from committees formed earlier in this regard, Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren has said the Government is drafting a rule in this regard and sought suggestions from Civil Society Organisations and experts.

This was expressed when he was addressing the gathering at the launch programme of the 1st Batch Trainees of the State Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition (SIHM), Manipur and Interaction of Chief Minister, Manipur through video conferencing with trainees of “Industry Link Training Programme of 2000 Trainees for ITES” held at City Convention Centre today. The programme was organized by the Department of Tourism and Department of Information & Technology, Government of Manipur, reports added.

Government to Promote Bamboo Products

The External Affairs Ministry is ever ready to link with foreign countries for promotion of bamboo and bamboo products from Manipur as well as the country, Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Education Dr. R K Ranjan said on World Bamboo Day celebration jointly organised on September 18 by Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD), North East Centre for Technology Application and Reach, Manipur State Bamboo Mission and South Asia Bamboo Foundation at IBSD conference hall.

The Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Education Dr. R K Ranjan said that the ministry is waiting for the varieties of bamboo products from entrepreneurs so that they can be linked with foreign countries if they need any kind of marketplace or export chain for the products outside India. He further stated that the National Education Policy, 2020 has a lot of scope for skilling the students and youths in the bamboo industry as well, reports said.

Dr. R K Ranjan further emphasised the need to explore bamboo diversity and scientific interventions for developing products/processes and improving the socio-economic status of the region.

The programme was attended by scientists, researchers, staff of IBSD and SABF including local entrepreneurs from Manipur. During the programme, bamboo saplings were distributed to farmers and many bamboo products were displayed, reports added.

India’s First-Ever Floating Photo Exhibition Held

The first-ever three-day “floating” photo exhibition was launched at the Loktak Lake in Manipur on September 21, with Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Education Dr RK Ranjan inaugurating it.

Reports said that the novel exhibition, organised by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Central Bureau of Communication Regional Office, Imphal, Manipur, is housed on a specially constructed floating platform on the Lake, and can be accessed by a wooden causeway from the shore.

This is the first-time that such an arrangement has been attempted by the Central Bureau of Communication in its history of over 50 years. Cultural performances by departmental artistes and private troupes of CBC, RO, Imphal presented on a floating stage especially constructed for the event was the highlight of the ianugural programme.

Local fishermen and fisherwomen of the communities around the lake, also presented a dance performance on boats.

In his speech, Ranjan said that the exhibition showcasing the mission of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will probably be the first-ever floating exhibition in the globe. Dr Ranjan said such an exhibition will be able to inspire all while highlighting various achievements during the eight years tenure of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of the country, reports said.

UCM Questions GOI’s ‘Indifference’ on India-Myanmar Border Issue

The United Committee Manipur (UCM) along with villagers and a team of media persons inspected India-Myanmar border pillar 103 in Kamjong district on September 20, and said it will submit a report to the Government of India.

The UCM alleged the Government of India of being indifferent towards the border issue despite Myanmar encroaching on Manipur’s land along the border pointing out that Manipur is losing its land spreading from 2 km to 5 km along the India-Myanmar border.

Reports said as villagers have also raised concern that Myanmar has been encroaching upon Manipur’s land along the Border Pillar 103, committeethe UCM members along with experts measured the latitude and longitude of the border pillar to be verified with the coordinates in record.

The UCM president Joychandra Konthoujam said that UCM with the help of experts will compile a report of the disputed border pillars and submit the same to the Prime Minister, the Union Home minister and the government to mount pressure to verify and resolve the border issue. UCM will also submit a fact finding report to the state government, he added.

It may be mentioned that UCM has been inspecting the border pillars, starting number 76 in Moreh, Tengnoupal district. The committee president said that even the border fencing carried out by BRTF under the Ministry of Home Affairs is being done by compromising 5 km of the land safeguarded by Manipuri forefathers.

He lamented that apart from erasing traditional boundaries marked on trees, Myanmar has shifted the border pillars by erecting the same inside Manipur’s land.

The UCM further pointed out that after much pressure by UCM, the coordinates of border pillar 96 erected at Kangpat Khullen in Kamjong district have been rectified in Google Map.

Contending that there are instances of Myanmar Army personnel having imprisoned and tortured villagers who try to defend the state’s territory, the UCM President urged the Government of India and the state government to take necessary measures at the earliest to prevent such incidents.

“The Government of India and the Manipur Government must bear responsibility if any untoward incidents when people’s emotions explode,” Joychandra said.

First Northeast Autumn Festival 2022 in Ukhrul

The six-day long first Northeast Autumn Festival six-day long festval will be organised from October 20 to 26 at scenic grassland Jorcheng in Lunghar village, which is about 21 km from the district headquarters by the CHIKO Adventures.

Reports said the Ukhrul-based CHIKO Adventures annouced about the celebration of the First Northeast Autumn Festival during a press conference held in Ukhrul town on September 21. Wungmaso Rungsung, president of CHIKO Adventures, informed that as part of the festive main tourism-cum adventure activities, visiting tourists and adventure lovers will witness outdoor camping, zip lining, paragliding.

Zorbing, trampoline, spider net and Burma Bridge will be installed at the campsite for families and the kids as a day activity. Another striking feature of the festival will be Rhythm Night wherein a music concert by artistes drawn from every north eastern state will entertain the tourists and the locals with various music genres including rock, pop, folk music, contemporary folk, indigenous music instruments in addition to EDM (DJ night).

They will provide accommodations to as many as 200 tourists, reports added.

Illegal Arms Dealer Arrested

A team of district commando, Imphal East on September 21 arrested an illegal arm dealer at Yairipok Singa near oil pump, Thoubal district along with a pistol.

Reports said the arrested person has been identified as one Md Farooque alias Deepak, 46, son of Md Abdul Latif of Yairipok Singa, Thoubal district.

The commando team, while conducting random frisking and checking at Yairipok Singa near the oil pump, arrested Farooque at around 7:20 am on September 21. One 0.32 pistol marked as ‘765 MM, Mt 018, CAL 04321, RKT, No 04321’ loaded with seven live rounds and a mobile phone were seized from his possession, reports said.

Thai Delegation Visits Moreh

A Thai Business Delegation led by Ms Pattarat Hongtong, the Ambassador of Thailand to India, visited Moreh on September 22 to explore economic potential for investment.

Reports said a 13-member delegation comprising four officials from Royal Thai Embassy New Delhi, three officials from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and six delegates from six different chambers of commerce arrived at Moreh at around 4.30 pm by road from Imphal. They held a meeting with stakeholders at Integrated Check Post (ICP) Moreh.

At the meeting, T Baite explained the purpose and functions of ICP in regards to trade with South East Asian nations while Y Anand Senior immigration officer informed the Thai delegates about the existing situation along the border and its impact on cross border movement of people and goods. SK Gangte, SP Land Customs Station Moreh informed the Thai delegates about the roles and functions of the Land Custom department, reports added.

It may be mentioned that the delegation, which arrived at Imphal International Airport by an Indigo flight at around 9 am, also made a courtesy call on Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren at CM Bungalow at Babupara in Imphal before leaving for Moreh by road in the afternoon.

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