Leichombam Erendro, a Manipur-based political activist arrested in May for sedition – for writing “cow dung and cow urine don’t work” on Facebook – was released from jail on Monday evening.
He was released at 4.45 pm – 15 minutes before expiry of a Supreme Court deadline.
Speaking after his release, Mr Erendro accused the government of trying to “silence everyone with NSA (the National Security Act)” and declared “but that is not going to work”.
“326 cases of sedition across India. Let me tell you something… the Supreme Court came out and said, ‘Why are we using the sedition law, which was used by the British to arrest freedom fighters. Mahatma Gandhi himself was arrested under sedition law,” he said.
“I think the current government is trying to abuse the power of the Executive and go beyond the Constitution… and trying to silence everybody. But I don’t think that’s going to work. India is a very strong democracy,” Mr Erendro added.
This morning the Supreme Court overruled a government request to adjourn the hearing and said Mr Erendro’s “continued detention… amounts to violation of right to life and personal liberty”.
“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 with a personal bond of ₹ 1,000,” a two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said.
The court’s order came on a plea by Mr Erendro’s father.
The activist, with journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, was arrested for posting the comment after the death of Saikhom Tikendra Singh, the former chief of the BJP’s state unit.
Manipur BJP Vice President Usham Deban and General Secretary P Premananda Meetei filed the complaint against them, claiming that their posts were offensive.
In June last year too Mr Erendro had been charged with sedition – this time over a Facebook post that had the photo of Rajya Sabha MP Sanajaoba Leishemba with Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
The photo, captioned “minai macha“, showed Manipur’s titular king bowing down to Mr Shah. Roughly translated from Meitei, Manipur’s native language, it means “son of a servant”.
Mr Erendro was released on bail in that case.