The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the detention of Manipur-based political activist Leichobam Erendro, is a serious matter where he lost his liberty for months and issued notice on a prayer seeking compensation for his illegal detention.
Erendro was detained under the stringent National Security Act over a Facebook post that cow dung or cow urine will not cure Covid.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said: “It is a serious matter. Someone has lost their liberty since May!” The bench granted two weeks’ time to the respondents to file their reply on the issue of compensation.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on his part, submitted that detention order has been revoked and Erendro was released on Monday in compliance with the top court’s order. Mehta urged the court to put the matter to rest, and added that he had not attempted to defend the detention order a day ago.
However, advocate Shadan Farasat, representing Erendro’s father who filed the petition seeking his son’s release, pressed the prayer in his plea for compensation. Farasat contended before the bench that the detention order had mentioned five cases against him, however, the charge sheet was not filed in any of those cases.
The bench told Mehta, “On that prayer we will give you time to file reply.” After hearing the arguments, the bench issued notice in the matter.
Mehta submitted: “We will have to justify the order on merits, and this could have been avoided by a little pragmatic approach.” The bench responded that is the choice of the petitioner.
On Monday, the top court had ordered Erendro’s immediate release before 5 p.m. on the same day itself. The bench noted that his continued detention would amount to “a violation of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution”.
“We accordingly direct that the petitioner shall be released forthwith as and by way of an interim direction of this court, unless he is required to be in custody in any other case, subject to further orders, subject to his filing a personal release bond of amount Rs 1,000,” said the court in its order.
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 of 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”.