SC orders Manipur activist’s release; calls detention ‘violation of right to life’

Justice Chandrachud said: "He cannot be kept in jail even for a day. We will order his release today".

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered for the release of Manipuri activist Erendro Leichombam, on or before 5 p.m. Monday. Leichombam was booked under the National Security Act (NSA) for a Facebook post criticising BJP leaders for advocating cow dung and cow urine as cure for Covid.

A Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said a person cannot be kept in jail even for a day for such an act. Justice Chandrachud said: “He cannot be kept in jail even for a day. We will order his release today”.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for his part, requested the bench to list the matter for Tuesday. However, the bench did not budge and said the court will grant interim relief today.

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The bench said: “We are of the view that continued detention of the petitioner would be a violation of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. We accordingly direct that the petitioner shall be released forthwith subject to interim directions of this court and subject to further orders”.

The court directed its registrar judicial to communicate the order to Manipur Central Jail for release of the activist before 5 p.m. on Monday. The counsel for the petitioner submitted that he would press for compensation at the next hearing.

The plea was filed in Supreme Court by Leichombam’s father, L. Raghumani Singh, stating that the detention of the activist is a reprisal for his criticism against BJP leaders for advocating cow dung and cow urine as cures for Covid. “Erendro, a Manipuri political activist, has been preventively detained solely to punish him for his criticism of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders for advocating cow dung and cow urine as cures for Covid,” said the petition.

The plea contended that it is a shocking instance of misuse of preventive detention law to stifle completely innocuous speech, which is fully constitutionally protected.

Leichombam was initially arrested on May 13 for his Facebook post on the complaint of BJP leaders. On May 17, the day he was granted bail by the local court, the district magistrate Imphal West District, detained him under the stringent NSA, which is a preventive detention law. The plea said he has already spent 45 days in custody for an “innocuous piece of speech”.

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