Manipur HC orders release of journalist detained under NSA over FB post

On Friday, the Manipur High Court directed the release of Manipur journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhemcha noting that his detention would be as much a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution as it was in the case of Erendro Leichombam. Kishorchandra was detained under the National Security Act for a post on his Facebook wall on the death of a BJP leader due to COVID-19 commenting that ‘cow dung, cow urine did not work.’

In an urgent hearing of the letter-petition filed by the wife of Kishorechandra, a bench of Chief Justice P V Sanjay Kumar and Justice Kh. Nobin Singh has ordered the release of activist-journalist Kishorchandra by 5 PM today.

Advocate Chongtham Victor, counsel for Kishorchandra, said that the issue of compensation for unlawful detention will be adjudicated by the High Court on August 24. The copy of the order is yet to be uploaded.

The letter-petition filed by Kishor’s wife, Ranjita, addressed to the Chief Justice, and other Judges of the Manipur High Court stated that while both Erendro Leichombam and Kishorchandra Wangkhem were arrested on the same grounds under the National Security Act ,1980; the Supreme Court has ordered the release of Erendro, but Kishore continues to languish in jail.

While ordering the release of Erendro by 5pm on Monday, a bench Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah of the Supreme Court had observed that the “continued detention of the petitioner” would “amount to a violation of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution”.

The letter-petition also mentions that ‘in the interest of justice’, several attempts have been made to approach the Home Department (Chief Secretary) and District Magistrate for revoking NSA slapping against Kishore for allegations similar to Erendro’s, which has been revoked by the said office by on order soon after his release by the Supreme Court. The said order refers to Supreme Court’s order or releasing Erendro and notes,

“In exercise of powers conferred under Section 14(1) of the National Security Act, 1980, the Governor of Manipur is pleased to revoke the detention order passed against Erendro Leichombam.”

In this regard, the Court noted that there is no distinction between the case of Kishor and Erendro Leichombam. Both of them put up similar Facebook posts, critical of the utility of cow dung and cow urine in treating the Coronavirus. It further noted borrowing observations from the Supreme Court judgment in Erendro’s release.