A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah granted bail to Erendro on furnishing a personal bail bond of Rs 1,000 without any sureties and ordered the BJP-governed state government to ensure his release before 5pm. On the request of solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for Manipur, the bench adjourned the hearing of Erendro’s father L Raghumani’s Singh’s petition to Tuesday. However, it said the detained person cannot be kept under detention for a day more, even though the petition would be heard on Tuesday.
Forty-year-old Erendro was arrested on May 13 for his Facebook post over state BJP chief S Tikendra Singh’s death due to Covid. He had posted: “The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense. Professor ji RIP.” The jibe was at certain functionaries of the party underscoring the medicinal properties of cow dung and urine.
There is good reason why the SC has ordered the release of the activist. The activist’s arrest for such an innocuous tweet was a clear case of police arbitrariness. But unless those engaged in carrying out such acts in the garb of law enforcement face consequences, such incidents will continue to happen. The wrongful and shameful arrest also underlines the fact that apart from the sedition law, some other Acts also need a relook.
“In the meantime, having prima facie considered the contents of the petition, we are of the view 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. We accordingly direct that the petitioner shall be released forthwith as and by way of an interim direction of this Court, unless he is required to be in custody in any other case, subject to further orders, subject to his filing a personal release bond in the amount of Rs 1,000,” the bench said after hearing petitioner’s counsel Shadan Farasat.
To ensure compliance of its order on releasing Erendro without loss of time, the bench directed SC‘s Registrar (Judicial) to communicate its order to Sajiwa Central Jail authorities in Imphal. In addition, it asked the state standing counsel Pukhrambam Ramesh Kumar to also communicate the SC’s interim bail order to the jail authorities.
Erendro was arrested after state BJP vice-president Usham Deben Singh filed a complaint alleging that the post had “deliberately and wilfully insulted and outraged religious feelings and sentiments” of BJP workers and family members of the deceased.
Four days later, an Imphal court granted bail to Erendro but even before he could walk out of jail, the Imphal West district magistrate issued an order invoking NSA against Erendro with a specious logic that “his activities were prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintenance of public order”. The SC prima facie found that Erendro’s continued detention was prejudicial to the right to life and liberty and that it should not be continued even for a day more.
Erendro’s father in his petition had said that the authorities misdirected themselves to misuse the provisions of the stringent preventive detention law NSA just to silence his son’s constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech and expression of views on public issues. He said Erendro’s Facebook post was a “criticism of the unscientific position taken and misinformation being spread by several BJP politicians regarding cow urine and cow dung being effective in preventing/treating Covid-19”.