Duty Magistrate rejects plea to release seized betel leaves

TMB Report

IMPHAL: Duty Magistrate, Imphal West today rejected the Zima application filed for releasing of seized betel leaves and directed the investigation officer of the case that both fit and unfit leaves that were seized at Imphal airport be disposed on April 24 in the presence of representatives of print and electronic media of the state.

The court order was passed on Monday after it was kept on reserved after the continuous hearing of the filed Zima application and Zima objection of Singjamei police in length on April 9, April 17 and April 18.

The court passed by duty magistrate, Imphal West observed that from the record that three different Zima filed for releasing the seized betel leaves as Zima Petitioner Thingujam Kamo for 260 packets of betel leaves, petitioner Bhola Sah Kumar for releasing 301 packets of seized betel leaves and petitioner Maisnam Joyshree for released seized betel leaves without mentioning packets/ sacks of betel leaves on Zima. 

The court observed that record showed that on April 4, 53 numbers of packets/bags containing betel leaves were seized at the instant of Laishram Anil and on production of Irengbam Surjit from the godown, on April 5 two Maruti van used on transportation of betel leaves were also seized along with some torn packets of betel leaves. 

On April 20, 7 numbers of packets/ sags of betel leaves lying at the Cargo delivery point of Bir Tikendrajit International Airport were seized from the instant of OC Tuilihal International Airport and further some more packets of betel leaves from the surrounding area of international Airport.

It is also observed that there is no dispute from both side that betel leaves is not illegal but transportation of the same without the prior permission of authorities concerned during the lockdown is illegal and the question arise for considered was whether consumption of betel leaves during the prevailing situation arising out of corona virus (COVID-19 ) is for fr health of the public in large number court further observed that none of the Zima Petitioners established that they are the owner of the seized betel leaves. The petitioners Thingujam Kamo and Bhola Sah Kumar have failed to produce any reliable documents even after opportunities were given to them to produce the same but there is no dispute that the petitioner Thingujam Kamo is the consignee of 301packets of betel leaves which were delivered by Cargo flight at Bir Tikendrajit International Airport. 

The court further observed in the prevailing situation arising due to the COVID-19 safety precaution are measures taken up across the country by the government and as per the food analyst report submitted before the court mention that percentage of damage is assumed to be increase as betel leaves are not perishable in nature court observed that in such circumstances, releasing of seized betel leaves on Zima or hold auction sale for those seized betel leaves which are found to be fit will enhance spread of COVID-19, although new cases of COVID-19 is not reported in the state of Manipur and also ultimately lead to violation of order passed by the authorities concerned either directly or indirectly. Moreover the purpose of lockdown across the country and every steps taken by the centre government in the entire country as well as state government to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country will absolutely be defeated. Under the circumstances and in view of the observation, the court allowed the prayer of the IO of the case to dispose both the fit and unfit seized betel leaves, as such disposal may prevent spread of COVID-19 to some extent. 

The court directed the IO of the case to pile up and open all the seized betel leaves in such as place where the health and safety of public are not affected and to dispose seized betel leaves on April 24 as per standard procedures as advised by designated officer of Food Safety administration Imphal west under the strict supervision of SP Imphal West and in the presence of representative of print and electronic media of the state so as to remove the apprehension/ suspicious of the general public and also to ensure that the seized items are disposed of promptly and safety without causing any damage to the environment and surrounding area as well. Court also directed that the whole process of disposal shall be videographed and copy of the recoding be submitted before the court. 

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