The Supreme Court today granted the release of Leichombam Erendro, a Manipur-based political activist detained in May on charges of sedition based on certain Facebook remarks. The 37-year-old was detained under the National Security Act for stating that cow dung and cow urine don't function as a remedy against COVID-19.
While Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested that the hearing be delayed until tomorrow, the justices granted his immediate release.
The two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah stated that the petitioner's continued imprisonment would be a breach of his right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and ordered him to be freed today by 5 p.m. with a personal bond of Rs. 1,000.
Following the death of the BJP state president, the Manipur Police Department charged activist Erendro Leichombam along with journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem for the violating the National Security Act. The two had earlier suggested that the saffron party should no longer advertise cow urine as a Covid-19 treatment. They had been granted bail by an Imphal court earlier in the day, but the government used the National Security Act to prevent their release.
Wangkhem and Leichombam were detained on May 13 for a Facebook post in reaction to an allegation that the two had insulted Manipur Bharatiya Janata Party chairman Saikhom Tikendra Singh, who died the same day from coronavirus-related complications. Usham Deban Singh, the state BJP vice president, and P Premananda Meetei, the state BJP general secretary, submitted the complaint. Leichombam had offered his condolences for the BJP leader's death, stating that coronavirus could not be treated with cow dung or urine. Only science and common sense, he argues, can cure COVID-19.
Last Monday, the Supreme Court questioned whether the sedition law was still essential after 75 years of independence. The law poses a significant threat to the operation of institutions and carries enormous capacity for abuse with no responsibility for the government, according to the court, which compared it to an overzealous carpenter wielding a saw.