After Accused in Drugs Bust Acquitted, Manipur Police Officer Returns Gallantry Award

Thounaojam Brinda returned the medal a day after Lhukhosei Zou was acquitted in the 2018 drugs bust case. She had accused the state's chief minister N. Biren Singh of 'shielding' Zou.

New Delhi: Manipur Police officer Thounaojam Brinda, who had in July locked horns with the state chief minister N. Biren Singh by alleging in a court document that she was under ‘pressure’ from him to release from custody a ‘drug lord’, has returned the state’s Police Medal for Gallantry.

The award was granted to her by the BJP chief minister in 2018 on the occasion of Patriots Day in recognition of her continued effort against the smuggling and sale of drugs in the border state and was also promoted to the post of additional superintendent. She was the first officer from the state’s Narcotics and Affairs of Border Bureau to be granted a state gallantry award.

The police officer’s action on December 18 has come a day after the Special Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (ND&PSA) court in Imphal acquitted the said person she had accused the chief minister of shielding then – former chairman of the Chandel autonomous district council Lhukhosei Zou – in the case. When she had arrested Lhukhosei from Chandel with six others during a raid at his official residence on June 20, 2018 with drugs worth Rs 27 crore in the international market, he was a BJP member.

Prior to the assembly elections in 2017, the BJP had gone after the then Congress government for not being able to tackle the drug menace in the state and had made it an election issue too. After coming to power, Biren Singh declared a ‘war on drugs’. Apart from felicitating Brinda, who led several successful operations against the sale of drugs in the state, the chief minister on several occasions had appreciated the entire Narcotics and Affairs of Border team for ‘satisfactory work’.

However, in regard to the 2018 case, documents submitted by Brinda in the Manipur high court this past July as part of a 16-page affidavit highlighted ‘interventions’ from the chief minister to particularly shield Lhukhosei.

Four days after the state police had filed a chargesheet, Lhukhosei was granted bail by the ND&PSA court following which he absconded. However, in February this year, he surrendered himself to the police but was granted bail again by the ND&PSA court on May 21.

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Brinda, who is presently additional SP (headquarters), questioned the judge for repeatedly granting bail to Lhukhosei in a social media post on May 23. The Manipur high court took note of it as a possible contempt of court case and had summoned her, to which she filed the 16-page affidavit accusing the chief minister of putting “pressure” on her to not only stay away from filing a chargesheet in the case but also to release Lhukhosei from custody. She told the court that the chief minister had reached out to her through state “BJP vice president Asnikumar Moirangthem”.

In response, the chief minister had threatened to take action against her for defaming him. A war of words had ensued but no legal action was taken.

On December 18, following Lhukhosei’s release by the special court once again, Brinda wrote to the chief minister, “In recognition for this case as part of the honourable chief minister’s ‘War against drugs’, I was conferred the Chief Minister’s Medal for Gallantry on the occasion of Patriots’ Day, 13thAugust 2018.”

“However, the investigation and prosecution have been deemed unsatisfactory by the honourable ND&PS court. I feel morally inclined that I have not conducted my duty as ‘per the wishes’ of the criminal justice delivery system of the land.  Hence, for the reason cited above, I do not consider myself deserving of the honour bestowed upon me by your good self. I, therefore, return the same to the state Home Department so that it may be given to a more deserving and loyal police officer,” the letter said.