Supreme Court gives two weeks to Manipur to respond to activist father’s compensation plea

On Monday, it had directed State to ‘forthwith’ release Erendra Leichongbam

The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave the Manipur government two weeks to respond to a plea for compensation made by the father of activist Erendra Leichongbam, who was detained for two months under the National Security Act (NSA) for his Facebook posts questioning the efficacy of cow dung and urine as a cure for COVID-19 in the context of the death of a BJP leader due to coronavirus.

A Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah on Monday directed the State to “forthwith” release Mr. Leichongbam, saying he should not spend another night in prison.

On Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for Manipur, strove for quietus in the case. He said the activist was released immediately after the apex court order. “We have shown the gesture of immediately releasing him… Now let it be…”

But Justice Chandrachud said “this was a serious matter” concerning personal liberty. “Somebody lost their liberty for over two months… It is a serious matter, Mr. Mehta,” he remarked.

Mr. Mehta said the activist could have taken “legal recourse” and this petition was filed only after months.

Advocate Shadan Farasat, appearing for Mr. Leichongbam’s father, L. Raghumani Singh, said the petition filed by his client had two prayers. First, to quash the May 17 detention order passed by the District Magistrate of Imphal West District against his son and, secondly, payment of compensation for his detention.

“Then, we will have to justify the order of detention on merits,” Mr. Mehta took a combative stance after his earlier one to take the case no further.

‘Choice of petitioner’

Justice Chandrachud reasoned, “But Mr. Mehta, this [seeking compensation] is the choice of the petitioner”.

Mr. Farasat submitted, “Yes, responsibility [for the detention] has to be fixed.

Mr. Mehta responded, “something else is being done here… It seems the petitioner is only incidental”.

On Monday, Mr. Farasat argued that the government was increasingly using preventive detention provisions in cases in which even ordinary penal sections did not apply. He submitted that the Facebook posts were criticism against the advocacy of cow dung and urine as a cure. The stringent NSA provisions have been slapped on the activist to chill his free speech.

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