The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Manipur government to release activist Leichombam Erendro, who was detained under the National Security Act (NSA), allegedly over a Facebook post related to the death of state BJP chief S Tikendra Singh, who succumbed to Covid-19.
A bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah passed the order on a petition filed by L Raghumani Singh, father of Mr Erendro, alleging that NSA was invoked against his son, only to cancel the bail granted earlier to him.
Advocate Shadan Farasat appeared for Mr Leichombam, who was arrested on May 13 for a Facebook post that said, “The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense. Professor ji RIP.”
Justice Chandrachud said the activist’s continued detention “would violate the right under Article 21.” The bench listed the matter for Tuesday, after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the government, said that he was not contesting the plea, but would file a response.
Vice-President of Manipur BJP Usham Deben Singh had filed a complainant against the activist, alleging that the post had “deliberately and willfully insulted and outraged the religious fillings and sentiments” of BJP workers and family members of the deceased.
Mr Leichombam was granted bail by a local court, however, the District Magistrate of Imphal West on May 17 ordered to book him under the NSA, stating, “…satisfied that his activities are prejudicial to the security of the State and to the maintenance of public order.”
Mr Erendro’s father said in the petition that the invocation of NSA in his son’s case was a “misuse of preventive detention law to stifle completely innocuous speech that is fully constitutionally protected and was made in public interest.”
He further said that the Facebook post was meant to curb misinformation around Covid-19 cures. The statement was made as a “criticism of the unscientific position taken and misinformation being spread by several BJP politicians regarding cow urine and cow dung being effective in preventing/treating Covid-19,” added the plea.
It also argued that Mr Erendro’s detention was in violation of the apex court’s April 30 order regarding the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, which stated that any attempt to clampdown on information on social media by the authorities, including the call for help from people, would be treated as the contempt of court. A separate contempt petition has also been filed in the top court.
He is a former associate of activist Irom Sharmila and has for long spoken against state repression and militarisation. He was arrested along with journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, who had made a similar post over Covid cures, following the BJP leader’s death. ILNS/KR/RJ/SNG