The High Court of the Indian state of Manipur on Monday ordered the government to release television journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem from police custody.
He was detained in November under the National Security Act for “activities prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintenance of public order.”
Wangkhem, who works for a local television channel in the state’s capital Imphal, had criticized Manipur’s Chief Minister and India’s Prime Minister on social media. He was initially arrested on November 24 for sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code but was released on bail by a local judge who said that Wangkhem’s expression of opinion cannot be equated with seditious activities as it did not “create enmity between different groups of people, community, sections” or bring “hatred, contempt, dissatisfaction” against the government of India or that of the state.
A day after his release on bail, administrative authorities issued a fresh order to detain Wangkhem under Section 3(2) of the National Security Act. The official reason given was that Wangkhem “would resume activities which are prejudicial to the security of the state and to the maintain of public order, as he is a habitual offender invoking offences that intends to cause fear or alarm to the public…he should be prevented from commission of such prejudicial activities through an alternative preventive measure.”
Both the state and federal governments rejected his representations against the detention, saying his plea was “devoid of merit.” The Manipur government fixed a 12-month period for his detention.
Judges Lanusungkum Jamir and KH. Nobin Singh ruled in Monday’s decision that Wangkhem’s habeas corpus writ petition against the detention order succeeds. The bench held that the order to detain him was vitiated by the authorities’ “non-furnishing” of the evidence against him. This lapse had rendered him unable to mount an effective defense before the state and federal governments. The court said that the detention order and all other consequential orders are set aside and quashed. “Wangkhem is to be set at liberty forthwith,” the judgment adds.