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Compensation for journalist: SC seeks Manipur govt’s response

The Supreme Court on Tuesday noted the “serious matter” of loss of liberty and sought the Manipur government’s response on a petition seeking compensation for a journalist who was detained for over two months under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) after an objectionable Facebook post
By Abraham Thomas, New delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 20, 2021 11:34 PM IST

The Supreme Court on Tuesday noted the “serious matter” of loss of liberty and sought the Manipur government’s response on a petition seeking compensation for a journalist who was detained for over two months under the stringent National Security Act (NSA) after an objectionable Facebook post.

The direction comes a day after top court cited the fundamental right to life and ordered the immediate release of Leichombam Erendro, saying “we can’t keep this person in custody even for a day”. Erendro -- who was detained in May this year after he put up a Facebook post criticising state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders over their responses to Covid-19 -- was released from the Central Jail at Sajiwa in Imphal East district on Monday evening.

On Tuesday, the bench of justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah described the issue as a “serious matter” and observed that the journalist “lost his liberty since May”. The court gave the state government two weeks to respond to the plea filed by the journalist’s father L Raghumani Singh.

“It is a serious matter. Someone has lost liberty since May,” the court said.

Appearing for petitioner, advocate Shadan Farasat said compensation has been sought as five cases have been lodged against Erendro by the state since 2018, and not a single charge sheet has been filed in any of the cases.

“The responsibility has to be fixed,” Farasat said.

Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Manipur government, told the bench that the journalist had been released from detention and the case under the National Security Act 1980 revoked after the court’s order on Monday.

He said the state did not defend the plea for release of the journalist, and the matter should be allowed to rest at that. The petitioner should “adopt a pragmatic approach” in acknowledging that the relief has been granted, he added.

“This is a gesture the state has shown immediately. The matter should rest here. We will have to justify our order on merits. This could have been avoided (by petitioner) by adopting a little pragmatic approach,” the solicitor general said.

To this, the bench said that it is the petitioner’s choice to seek relief from the court. It gave the Manipur government two weeks to file a response and posted the matter for hearing next on August 6.

The bench said, “We issue notice on the compensation aspect and you (Mehta) can file a reply on this aspect”.

Leichombam was booked under the NSA over his Facebook post on the death of S Tikendra Singh, a retired professor and Manipur BJP chief. “The cure for Corona is not cow dung & cow urine. The cure is science & common sense. Professor ji RIP,” Leichombam wrote. On May 13, Leichombam was arrested from his house on a complaint by Usham Deben Singh, vice-president of Manipur BJP.

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