Manipur Activist, Held for Facebook Post, Released From Jail After SC Order

Manipuri activist Erendro Leichombam was arrested over a contoversial Facebook post following a BJP leader's death.

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Authorities in Manipur on Monday, 19 July, released activist Erendro Leichombam on the Supreme Court's orders, two months after he was detained under the National Security Act (NSA) for his Facebook post criticising BJP leaders for advocating cow dung and cow urine as cure for COVID-19, reported IANS.

Officials in Imphal said that Leichombam was released from the central jail on Monday afternoon after a Supreme Court division bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah on Monday ordered his release on or before 5 pm.

"He cannot be kept in jail even for a day. We will order his release today," Justice DY Chandrachud said, as quoted by Bar&Bench.

The bench, which also compried Justice MR Shah, said that Leichombam's continued detention "would be a violation of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21".

The court ordered his release before 5 pm on Monday on the condition of filing a personal bond of Rs 1,000.

Why Was Leichombam Arrested?

Leichombam, along with Journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, was arrested for their posts on Facebook following the death of former Manipur BJP president Prof Saikhom Tikendra Singh, who had succumbed to COVID-19 in May this year.

In his Facebook post, Leichombam had written: “The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense. Professor ji RIP. (sic)”

Meanwhile, Wangkhem wrote: “Cow dung cow urine didn’t work. Groundless argument. Tomorrow I will eat fish."

The two were then arrested on 13 May after an FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by the state BJP vice president Usham Deban and general secretary P Premananda Meetei.

They were charged under section 153-A (promoting enmity between groups)/505(b) (2) (making statement with an intent to incite and cause mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).


What Happened in Court?

The Supreme Court on Monday heard the plea by Leichombam's father that said that he was arrested solely to punish him for his criticism of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leaders for advocating cow dung and cow urine as cures for COVID.

According to Bar&Bench, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested that the matter be listed for Tuesday, 20 July, but the court proceeded to pass the order for his immediate release.

Sources told The Quint that Leichombam will press for compensation in the next hearing against his "illegal detention".

Leichombam's Troubles With the Law and Lawmakers

Leichombam, a postgraduate in public administration from Harvard University was formerly an associate of activist Irom Sharmila.

In 2018, he was held for posting critical comments and videos against the BJP government in the state. In 2020, too, he was booked by the Manipur police on charges of sedition over a Facebook comment.

(With inputs from IANS and Bar & Bench).

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