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The front page of ‘Vanglaini’ newspaper dated April 11
The front page of ‘Vanglaini’ newspaper dated April 11|File image
MIZORAM

Mizoram: Court withdraws anticipatory bail to ‘Vanglaini’ editors

Joint editor Lalnghinglova Hmar, editor K Sapdang accused of publishing misleading report in newspaper by indicating MNF’s symbol as ‘sun’ instead of ‘star’ on poll day

Henry L Khojol

Aizawl: A district court in Mizoram on Tuesday withdrew the anticipatory bail to the joint editor of a local daily, Lalnghinglova Hmar, who also happened to be the joint Lok Sabha candidate of Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) and Congress, on the ground that the offences under which he has been charged are bailable and triable before any magistrate.

Along with Hmar, the anticipatory bail to K Sapdanga, the editor of the newspaper, was also withdrawn by the district court.

Both Hmar and Sapdanga have been accused of committing offences under sections 171-F and 171-G of the IPC for allegedly deliberately publishing a misleading report by indicating the ruling Mizo National Front (MNF)’s symbol as “sun” instead of the actual symbol allotted to the party, “star”, in their newspaper on April 11, the day Mizoram held election to the lone Lok Sabha seat and assembly by-polls to Aizawl West-I seat.

Aizawl judicial district session judge R Thanga withdrew and disposed of the anticipatory bail to the two editors since the offences under which they have been charged are bailable and that the offences may be placed before Chief Judicial Magistrate or court of Judicial Magistrate of First Class.

The anticipatory bails were disposed of based on the withdrawal of petition filed by the counsels of the two accused with liberty to file afresh, the order said.

Vanglaini, the largest circulated vernacular paper in the state, had allegedly misprinted the symbol of MNF as “sun” on polling day, which evoked strong reaction from the people as well as MNF party workers.

Chief minister and MNF chief Zoramthanga had alleged that it was done “deliberately” to undermine his party and confuse the voters.

Sapdanga denied the allegation citing it was “genuine mistake”. He had expressed apology to the MNF and the people and also prevented hawkers from distributing the papers, which has about 50,000 circulation, in towns and villages on polling day.

Separate FIRs were lodged against Sapdanga and Hmar by Aizawl district deputy commissioner Vanlalngaihsaka, who was the retuning officer of the Lok Sabha polls on April 11, following complaint lodged by MNF.

Meanwhile, Aizawl police have written to Aizawl district Chief Judicial Magistrate, seeking arrest warrant against the two accused.

A letter written by Lalrammawia, officer in-charge of Aizawl police station, on Monday said that during the course of investigation, the two accused had really published in their newspaper dated April 11 the symbol of MNF candidate C Lalrosanga as “Ni” (sun) instead of the allotted symbol “Arsi” (Star).

He asked the CJM to issue warrant of arrest against the two accused to complete him the ensuing investigation.

Cases have been registered against the accused after obtaining cognizance from the court of CJM since the offences were non-cognizance to the police, the letter added.

Joint publicity committee of ZPM and Congress has accused election officials of being “biased” and giving undue preferential treatment to the MNF, which is the ruling party in Mizoram, by registering FIR against their joint candidate and ignoring the complaint filed by them over the alleged wrong posters displayed in various polling stations in Lunglei district on polling day, which interchanged the serial number of their candidate with a independent candidate Lalhriatrenga Chhangte.

Denouncing the allegation, state chief electoral officer (CEO) Ashish Kundra had said that the RO was acting a per the provision of law and that he has simply asked a probe into the news report, which definitely requires fair investigation.

Joint chief electoral officer H Lianzela also said the Election Commission could not take any measure and compliance with the complaint filed by ZPM and Congress as it was withdrawn by the complainants on polling day.

However, ZPM-Congress joint publicity committee chairman Lallianchhunga claimed that separate complaints were filed by general headquarters of ZPM-Congress joint publicity committee and the parties Lunglei unit on polling day over the wrong posters.

He said that only the ZPM-Congress Lunglei unit withdrew its complaint.