Manipur journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, who was arrested under NSA for a Facebook post on the death of a BJP leader due to COVID-19, was freed from Sajiwa Central Jail in Imphal following the Manipur High Court order on Friday.
A two-member Manipur High Court bench comprising Chief Justice PV Sanjay Kumar and Justice Kh Nobin, after hearing the petition filed by Kishorchandra’s wife, Elanbam Ranjita, ordered interim release with a PR bond of 1,000.
The high court order suspended the detention of Wangkhemcha Wangthoi@Kishorchandra, under Section 3(2) of the National Security Act, 1980, till the next date of hearing of August 24.
Kishorchandra was arrested following his Facebook post in reaction to the news of the BJP leader who succumbed to COVID-19 that, “cow dung, cow urine did not work”.
The letter petition filed by Kishorchandra’s wife, Elangbam Ranjita 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 had ordered the release of Erendro, but Kishorchandra continued to languish in jail.
The High Court Registry received the letter petition on July 22. On July 22, the chief justice directed the matter to be placed before the committee concerned, as it appeared to be a fit case for urgent hearing. Thereupon, the Committee of Judges dealing with ‘Public Interest Litigation, Letter Petitions and Habeas Corpus Matters’ directed registration of the subject Letter Petition as a Writ Petition (Criminal). The case was accordingly registered and was listed for hearing before the double bench on Friday on the judicial side.
After hearing the petition, the court opined that they found no distinction or difference between the case of Wangkhemcha Wangthoi and that of Erendro Leichombam. Both had put up similar Facebook posts, critical of the utility of cow dung and cow urine in treating COVID-19. As they stand identically situated, the court opined that continued incarceration of the petitioner’s husband would be as much a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, as it was in the case of Erendro Leichombam.
For the initial arrest of Kishorchandra under provisions of the Indian Penal Code, he was granted bail by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal, with the following observations,
"The I.O.s failed has failed to furnish a checklist containing specified sub-clauses under Section 41(1)(b)(ii) in compliance of the order of the Supreme Court of India which may attract for departmental action, they shall also be liable to be punished for contempt of court to be instituted before the High Court having territorial jurisdiction. Accordingly, the remand prayer of the accused is rejected, and the accused person is released on bail."
However, soon after the bail order, he was booked under National Security Act along with Erendro Leichombam.
While during the hearing additional public prosecutor, Manipur seeks time to file a reply in the matter, if necessary. The court accordingly adjourned the matter to August 24.
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