‘Are we living in a police state’ asks Justice Deepak Gupta; Points out DM must be made to pay compensation to Erendro, Kishorchandra

He argues that compensation paid to Erendro and Kishorchandra should be of “very handsome amount” so that the DM thinks twice next time when his Political Master asks him to put a man behind bar, said former SC judge

TFM Desk

Expressing surprise at detention of an activist and a journalist from Manipur under NSA charges for saying cow urine and cow dung are not cure for Covid, former Supreme Court judge Deepak Gupta on Saturday asked whether we were living in a police state.

Describing it as the “grossest” misuse of the law, Justice Gupta time has come when there has to be payment of compensation in lieu of illegal incarceration. The concerned District Magistrate must be made to pay the compensation amount from his pocket, he said. 

It should be of a very handsome amount so that he thinks twice next time when his political master asked him to put a man behind bars. The court has also to be much stricter with law enforcement agencies, not with victims of the laws, he added.

Justice Deepak Gupta was speaking at a webinar on a topic “Democracy, dissent and draconian law – should UAPA and sedition law should have a place in the statute books?”

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The webinar was organised by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) and Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA). Transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj and advocate Prashant Bhushan moderated the discussion.

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Former judges Justice Aftab Alam, Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice Anjana Prakash and Gopal Gowda also spoke at the event.

The former Supreme Court judges unequivocally called for repeal of penal provision on sedition and stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) saying these are usually misused to stifle dissent and quell the voices which ask questions from the government.

While Justice Alam said the process of trial becomes a punishment for many in such cases, Justice Lokur was of the view that there should be a system of compensation for those who are wrongfully implicated and later acquitted.

On sedition, Justice Gupta said the law of sedition is an anathema to a democracy where every citizen has the right to ask questions from the government. Sedition law was introduced by a colonial power so that no Indian could raise their voice against British, he said, adding that Section 124A of the IPC in its current form must be struck down.

“Clarifications may come and go. Police will continue misusing sedition. The time has come to show the door to sedition law. No point retaining it on the statute books,” he said, referring to the filing of cases under Section 66A of the IT Act despite the section having been held unconstitutional in 2015.

Addressing the issue of the need for a system of compensation and reparation for those who are acquitted after long periods of incarceration under these laws, Justice Lokur said, “The sedition law and the UAPA are not going anywhere, they will remain where they are. And in fact, the NSA is now being added to it to stop people from talking.”

The former judge indicated the recent case of courts’ intervention securing release of political activist Erendro Leichombam and TFM journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem who were detained under the stringent National Security Act over a Facebook post that cow dung or cow urine will not cure COVID. “You have Manipur. And you have Uttar Pradesh, where the Allahabad high court struck down as many as 90 orders under the NSA”, said Justice Lokur.

He suggested that the only remedy is accountability and compensation for those who are acquitted after long periods of incarceration.

 “In the Manipur case, the Supreme Court said you better release him by 5 o’clock! This is the state that we have come to? That Courts have to order release by 5 PM, 6 PM? This is the duty of the authority of the police to release the person! And there was no compensation in any of these cases!,” he said.

Further, Justice Gowda noted that massive reforms are necessary in special security legislations as they “reek of an authoritarian impulse which is dangerous in a constitutional democracy”.”Legal reforms are imperative. Provisions in these special laws that accord impunity to State excesses need to be repealed. Stringent guidelines need to be laid down for the exercise of these powers,” he said.

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Straight out of jail, journalist Kishorchandra fires salvo at BJP-led Manipur government

“Only cowards abuse the executive power,” said Kishorchandra, who was released following a directive by the High Court of Manipur while hearing a letter petition filed by his wife.

TFM Report

Journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem on Friday lashed out at the Manipur government right after he was freed from the Manipur Central Jail, Sajiwa after spending more than two months inside the jail under stringent NSA charges.

“This N Biren Singh’s BJP-led government is a spineless and shameless one,” Kishorchandra fired away while speaking to media persons outside the jail. He took a dig at the state government, stating that he thought it might have learned its lesson from his previous arrests under the same charges. But it seems, they haven’t, he added.

“Only cowards abuse the executive power,” he said.

The journalist also said that the government should respect dissenting opinions and voices. He also accused the present regime of gagging anyone speaking against them.

Kishorchandra also said that he was contemplating to appeal for compensation, so that the government learns its lesson and no one is subjected to such arrests under frivolous charges.

Maintaining that the charges against him are baseless and unfounded, he said that justice has not been done to him. It is injustice (what the government has done to home), he said, adding that he has spent more than six months — more than four months in 2018 and more than two months this time — under the stringent NSA.

He argued that the present system is weak and perhaps needs restructuring as many inside the Sajiwa jail are incarcerated for petty things. They wouldn’t be there if the system was good, he added.

On the alleged campaign orchestrated to curtail free speech, he maintained that its motive is to cause mental trauma to the target and shut them up. He also advised people not to engage with such trolls, adding “truth will remain the truth”.

Kishorchandra also raised some issues regarding the inmates of the central jail. He opined that the High Court of Manipur should look into the rights of the inmates.

Despite the Supreme Court’s directive to decongest inmates in jails across the country in view of COVID-19, he maintained that the number of people arriving inside the jail was more than those leaving it. The home department of the state seems to be ignoring the apex court’s directive, he added.

He also raised concern about the medical facilities of the jail, especially regarding COVID-19. He alleged that the COVID protocol inside the jail was non-existent. Aren’t the inmates humans, he asked.

Kishorchandra’s release came following a directive by the High Court of Manipur while hearing a letter petition filed by his wife. As an interim direction, the court ordered his release before 5 pm on Friday upon his furnishing a personal release bond for a sum of Rs 1,000. 

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NEWS UPDATE: TFM journalist Kishorchandra released after High Court’s order

The High Court of Manipur observed “we are of the opinion that the 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.”

TFM Desk

TFM journalist Kishorchandra’s release came after the High Court of Manipur ordered his interim release in the NSA case.

In the order, the High Court observed that “On the face of it, we find no distinction or difference between the case of the petitioner’s husband and that of Erendro Leichombam. Both of them put up similar Facebook posts, critical of the utility of cow dung and cow urine in treating Coronavirus. As they stand identically situated, we are of the opinion that the 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”.

The High Court of Manipur on Thursday admitted the ‘letter petition’ filed by the wife of TFM journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem. The matter was listed on Friday before the bench of Chief Justice PV Sanjay Kumar and Justice Kh Nobin Singh.

The court also observed that there shall be an interim direction to the respondents to ensure that the petitioner’s husband Kishorchandra is released forthwith and in any event, not later than 5 pm on Friday upon his furnishing a personal release bond for a sum of ₹ 1000/, if his further incarceration is not required in connection with any other case.

The additional public prosecutor has sought time to file a reply if necessary. “We accordingly adjourn the matter to 24.08.2021 to enable him to do so. Advance copy of the reply, if any, shall be supplied to the counsel opposite,” said the order

In the petition addressed to the Chief Justice, High Court of Manipur, Elengbam Ranjita said that her husband Kishorchandra Wangkhemcha has been lodged in Central Jail Sajiwa since May 17, 2021 after the state government booked him under the National Security Act (NSA), 1980. 

READ ALL THE STORIES HERE:

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