Imphal, December 27 2021: The Special Judge, NIA Manipur today ordered release of Ponthalung Panmei and Lanchapou Bosco Gonmei on execution of required PR and surety bonds before the Court.
The two were arrested on the charges of involvement in the abduction and murder of Athuan Abonmai on September 22 .
The bail order was announced today after it was kept reserved after the bail hearing on December 17 .
The Court heard both Special PP, NIA and the counsels of the alleged accused/bail petitioners and also perused the case record.
Ponthalung Panmei’s counsel said that Ponthalung Panmei was arrested in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2015 for having connections with NSCN (K), not for having connections with NSCN (IM).
He was discharged from being a member of NSCN (K) in the year 2005 on account of his health conditions as he was suffering from heart and other diseases and thereafter the accused/petitioner severed all ties with NSCN (K).
Subsequently, he was issued a discharge certificate on February 14, 2005 by the General Staff Officer, Naga Army Ghqs. The counsel also submitted that thereafter, the accused/petitioner has been undertaking the business of supplying rice to villagers through different contractors on the capacity of being a nominee of Ex-MLA Samuel Zendai, in order to maintain his family consisting of his wife and a minor daughter.
The counsel argued that NIA cannot take up the present FIR case against the accused/petitioner as he had clearly stated that he was never a cadre of NSCN (IM) and his father was abducted by cadres of NSCN (IM) earlier.
The counsel added that the NSCN (IM) is also not listed as a banned terrorist organization under UA(P) Act, and prayed for releasing the accused on bail.
Lanchapou Bosco Gonmei’s counsel noted that his client has been remanded to judicial custody for his alleged connection with one Jackson of Naga National Council (NNC), Zeliangrong region.
However, the Investigating Officer of the case, neither adduced any supporting/incriminating material to substantiate the allegation nor has it been established that NNC is a terrorist gang/organisation as per the first schedule appended to the UA(P) Act.
As such, mere invocation of connected sections 16/17 & 20 of UA(P) Act, 1967 is nothing but a politically motivated attempt to subdue and mitigate public outcry against the killing of Athuan Abonmai by wrongly incarcerating the applicant/accused, the counsel contended.
The counsel further argued that no leading evidence to incriminate Lanchapou Bosco Gonmei in the present FIR case have been adduced as per the contents of the extract copy of the case diary regarding the particular FIR case.
Special PP (NIA), on the other hand, submitted that the investigating agency did not make any conclusion for involvement of any particular organization behind the particular crime and that the accused/petitioner was arrested based on intelligence input and further findings related to his involvements in raising funds for terror groups operating in the hilly regions of the State, specially Tamenglong district.
The special PP further submitted that the investigation is at the initial stage and the accused may be required to be taken in police custody after getting the analysis report of the digital devices seized from him from CFSL, Guwahati for corroborating his statements with the findings.
The Special PP also drew attention of the Court that if the accused is released on bail at this stage, he may definitely influence and put undue pressure on the witnesses with the help of terror groups for which he was working.
Further, the investigation is at the initial stage and all the other persons are still at large, so if the applicant/accused is released on bail, it will hamper the investigation against the absconding accused persons and their arrest.
However, the Court observed that, at this stage, the investigating agency could not present any material showing any link between the accused/petitioners with the kidnapping and/or murder of Athuan Abonmai.
The Court opined that, even though the alleged offences are heinous, there is no likelihood of the accused/petitioners absconding or influencing prosecution witnesses and added that the NIA has failed to provide convincing prima facie material for further detention of the accused in judicial custody.
Subsequently, the Court allowed release of the accused/petitioners on bail on execution of PR bond of Rs 1,00,000 each with one surety (Gazetted Officer) bond of the same amount and on the conditions that they shall present themselves before the investigating agency as and when required and they shall not influence any prosecution witness.
They shall not leave the State without prior permission of the Court, the Judge ruled.