The political twists and turns following a series of events involving Okram Henry continues to be the talk of the town right from the local shops to the corridors of power in Manipur. The announcement of the judgement of the Case of Election Petition No.2 of 2017 has come as a blow to Okram Henry.
The High Court of Manipur on April 15 declared the election of Okram Henry as a Congress MLA of 15-Wangkhei Assembly Constituency in the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly as null and void. The judgement was given by Manipur High Court’s single bench of Justice M. V. Muralidharan to an Election Petition No. 2 0f 2017 filed by Yumkham Erabot, the BJP candidate against Okram Henry. The hearing was held and the judgment was reserved on March 17, 2021.
Further, the High Court of Manipur in the judgement declared that Yumkham Erabot is duly elected MLA of 15-Wangkhei Assembly Constituency in the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly.
The judgment cited “false affidavit” submission to the Election Commission of India and charges of non-disclosure of information, including criminal antecedents in the time of filing his nomination paper for the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election held on March 4, 2017.
The petition cited that Okram Henry filed his highest educational qualification as “Class XII from Manipur Public School, CBSE” in the nomination for the 11the Manipur Legislative Assembly Election, 2017 while he filed his highest educational qualification as BA from Punjab University in his nomination for the 10th Manipur Legislative Assembly Election 2012.
The Petition also cited that Okram Henry had not disclosed a criminal case and a narcotic case against him to the Election Commission of India in his nomination for the 2017 election.
According to the petitioner, there was a criminal case pending against Henry before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM), Imphal West, over non-payment of money to a company. In order to discharge liability partly of Rs. 10,29,47,449 to the complainant company as agreed upon, Henry had issued a cheque of Rs. 10 lakh which was dishonoured by the bank citing “insufficient funds”. Later, the company filed a case against him before the CJM court.
“…At column 5(ii) of the Affidavit dated 13-02-2017 submitted by Respondent No.1 (Henry) to the Returning Officer of 15-Wangkhei A.C. along with his nomination paper, the Respondent No.1 is bound to provide details of cases which is/are pending against him in which cognizance has been taken by the court. The respondent no. 1, at column 5(ii) of the Affidavit had marked it as “NIL”. The Respondent No.1 deliberately concealed the pendency of the Cril. (C) Case No.17 of 2017 before the Court of Learned Chief Judicial Magistrate/Imphal West,” the court said.
A special trial case is also pending before the court of Special Judge, ND&PS against Henry whereby he was charged with illegally transporting contraband drugs.
The court said, “The Respondent No. 1 had filled up the information about the said Special Trial (CBI) in the affidavit at column no. (5) (i) which provides, ‘The following case(s) is/are pending against me in which charges have been framed by the court for an offence punishable with imprisonment for two years or more’ without furnishing the case number of the said Special Trial and also filled up in column 5(i)(d) as charge has not been framed.”
“The nomination paper of the Respondent No. 1 was improperly accepted by the Returning Officer as it is an admitted fact that the Respondent No. 1 failed to disclose the name of his spouse and dependents, details of criminal cases pending against him and his educational qualification. As such, election of the Respondent No. 1 is liable to be declared as null and void…” the court further said.
It may be mentioned that Okram Henry who was elected as Congress MLA securing 16,753 votes against BJP candidate Yumkham Erabot who secured 12,417 had resigned from the Congress on august 11, 2020 with five other MLAs and joined the BJP and became Minister of Social Welfare and MAHUD in the Council of Ministers of Nongthombam Biren’s BJP-led government on September 24, 2020.
However, Okram Henry’s six-month duration for getting re-elected expired on March 24 this year.
On the other hand, Former Minister Yumkham Erabot has welcomed the High Court of Manipur’s verdict which declared the election of Congress candidate Okram Henry from Wangkhei AC in the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly election as null and void.
The High Court’s verdict further directed the authority concerned to accept Yumkham Erabot as the MLA of Wangkhei AC.
Soon after receiving the High Court order, Erabot went to the residence of Speaker Y Khemchand at Singjamei Yumnam Leikai, Imphal on April 15. However, what was discussed at the meeting between the two could not be ascertained.
Later, speaking to a section of media persons, Erabot said that the case was going on for over four years.
The order passed by the High Court would be sent to the Election Commission of India and the ECI would send an order to the office of the Speaker.
“Once the Speaker’s office receives an order from the ECI, I would be sworn in as an MLA. The whole process may take two/three days,” he said.
Erabot said that he would spare no efforts to expose, with relevant documents, the Imphal Airport drug seizure case which dates back to 2013.
Consequently, Advocate of the petitioner representing Yumkham Erabot wrote a letter dated 15th April 2021 to the Speaker of the Manipur Legislative Assembly conveying the Court Order and requesting to arrange for oath taking ceremony for Yumkham Erabot as a Member of Manipur Legislative Assembly representing 15-Wangkhei Assembly Constituency to the 11th Manipur Legislative Assembly at the earliest.
Significantly, with Yumkham Erabot becoming BJP MLA, the party will have 24 MLAs now. In the strength of the House, it is a gain for the BJP.
However, the fanfare the BJP and its workers were shown at the time when Mayanglambam Rameshwar of Kakching Assembly Constituency who stood second in 2017 election became MLA after Manipur High Court’s order declaring the election of Y Surchandra from the same constituency in 2017 assembly election as null and void over non-disclosure of information in the election affidavit is not evident this time.
The kind of speedy actions followed after the Court’s Order making Mayanglambam Rameshwar as MLA of Kakching Assembly Constituency is also not evident when Yumkham Erabot is declared duly elected MLA of 15-Wangkhei Assembly Constituency by the High Court of Manipur.
It is well known that the seasoned and straight forward veteran politician Yumkham Erabot is not easily submissive and his rival Okram Henry was a saviour to Nongthombam Biren and his BJP-led Government.
Moreover, at the time of filing this story, there is no report of notification for the oath taking ceremony of Yumkham Erabot as MLA.
Although Yumkham Erabot is declared duly elected MLA of Wangkhei Assembly Constituency, he may be too thorny for the present BJP leadership to embrace warmly and may be too bony to swallow and too fleshy to throw away.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics