Updated: July 20, 2021 8:04:04 pm
On Monday, Manipuri political activist Leichombam Erendro walked out of the Manipur Central Jail hours after the Supreme Court ordered his immediate release. Erendro was picked up by the police on May 13 along with journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem for their Facebook posts related to the death of the Manipur BJP chief S Tikendra Singh, who died of Covid-19.
Following Singh’s death, Erendro had written on Facebook, “The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense. Professor ji RIP.”
Erendro holds a postgraduate degree in public administration from Harvard University and is a former associate of activist Irom Sharmila. He is also the convener of a regional party in Manipur called the Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA).
Since May 13, Erendro had been detained under the stringent National Security Act (NSA). On Monday, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud ordered that he be granted bail after furnishing a bond of Rs 1,000.
“We are of the view that the continued detention of the petitioner before this Court would amount to a violation of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the bench said.
What are the details of the case against Leichombam Erendro?
Following his Facebook post, Erendro was booked under the NSA, which empowers the state to detain a person without a formal charge and without trial.
May 13: Erendro was arrested from his house following a complaint filed by Usham Deben Singh, the vice-president of BJP Manipur. The complaint said his Facebook post had “deliberately and wilfully insulted and outraged religious feelings and sentiments” of BJP workers and family members of the deceased.
May 17: Erendro was granted bail by the local court but on the same day, an order was released by the District Magistrate of Imphal West District to book him under the NSA.
June 28: Erendro’s father L Raghumani Singh moved the Supreme Court by filing a plea through advocate Shadan Farasat, which said that Erendro had been detained only to punish him for criticising leaders of the BJP. The plea said that Erendro was detained to “stifle completely innocuous speech” made in public interest.
July 19: The Supreme Court hears the plea filed by Singh and grants him bail.
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This is not the first time that Erendro has been booked. In August 2020, a sedition case was filed against him over a comment he had made on a picture posted on Facebook of Sanajaoba Leishemba, then newly elected Rajya Sabha MP, greeting Home Minister Amit Shah. That time, Erendro spent a day in police custody.
In May 2018, Erendro spent 17 days in custody for refusing to take down a video purportedly showing some youngsters threatening Manipuris.
The journalist arrested with him in May, Wangkhem, has also spent time in prison from December 2018 to April 2019 for alleged derogatory comments against the government and Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh. In April 2019, the Manipur High Court struck down his detention.
Over the course of the last one year, several people have been booked by the Manipur government under the Disaster Management Act and some on sedition charges for criticising its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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