Supreme Court orders release of activist, arrested over Facebook posts
The Supreme Court of India today ordered the release of Erendro Leichombam, a 37-year-old political activist arrested for sedition over some Facebook posts earlier this year. A two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah directed his release by 5 pm on Monday, subject to a personal bond of Rs. 1,000. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had sought more time from the top court.
'Continued detention would violate right to life'
"We are of the view that the continued detention of the petitioner would amount to violation of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. We direct him to be released today by 5 pm," the Supreme Court said. SG Mehta had wanted the case to be adjourned until tomorrow. The order was passed on a petition filed by Leichombam's father.
When and why was Leichombam arrested?
Leichombam, along with journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, was arrested in May over some Facebook posts. "The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense. Professor ji RIP," Leichombam had written, referring to Tikendra Singh, the then state BJP President, who succumbed to COVID-19. Some local BJP leaders had then filed a police complaint against them.
Arrest is bad in law, violates earlier SC order: Plea
Leichombam was earlier granted bail on May 17 by a local court, however, the police then invoked the stringent National Security Act (NSA), 1980, and kept him under detention. In his petition, Leichombam's father said the NSA was being misused to invalidate the bail order. He added the arrest was in violation of an earlier Supreme Court order against clampdown on information about COVID-19.
Leichombam was charged with sedition last year too
In June 2020 too, Leichombam was charged with sedition over another Facebook post containing a picture of Rajya Sabha MP Sanajaoba Leishemba with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. In the picture, Sanajaoba Leishemba, who is the titular king of Manipur, was seen bowing with folded hands before Shah. Leichombam had captioned the image "Minai macha," which roughly translates to "Son of a servant."
SC has questioned the need for sedition law
The SC order has come just days after the apex court questioned the relevance of the prevailing sedition law in India. "The sedition law is a colonial law. Do we still need the law in our country after 75 years of Independence," Chief Justice NV Ramana had remarked last week. "Is the law still necessary in the statute book in our country?"