Manipur Journalist Detained Under National Security Act Moves HC

Manipur Journalist Detained Under National Security Act Moves HC

Manipur journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, who was detained under the National Security Act on November 27, has filed a habeas corpus petition in the Manipur High Court challenging his detention.

On December 14, the Manipur Government ordered that he should be kept under detention for 12 months.

He alleges that his detention under NSA is for criticizing the Manipur Government led by BJP through a post on Facebook during last August. In response to the post, he was first arrested on August 9, in a criminal case registered under Sections 505(2)(making statements promoting enmity and ill-will) and 500(defamation) of Indian Penal Code.

Later, he was released on bail by Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal West, on August 12. The CJM granted bail observing that Wangkhem was suffering from heart problems and that the offences were not "grave or heinous".

After release on bail, he was arrested again on November 24, in another criminal case registered under Section 124A IPC(sedition). He was released on bail by CJM Imphal West on November 26, observing that his social media posts were "mere expression of opinion against the Prime Minister of India and Chief Minister of Manipur, which cannot be equated with an attack to invite people to violence against the Govt. of India or Manipur to topple it".

The CJM further noted in the bail order that "The government, especially its functionary like Prime Minister or Chief Minister cannot be so sensitive as to take offence upon expression of opinion by its citizen which may be given every nicely by using proper words or indecently by using some vulgar terms"

The very next day of his release on bail, he was detained under NSA. In the detention order, it was stated that "his activities were prejudicial to the security of the State and to the maintenance of public order". His representation against the detention order was rejected by the District Magistrate on December 7. The State Government confirmed the detention on December 14 and fixed the period of detention as 12 months.

Challenging these actions under the NSA,  he has moved the High Court

"Detention of a bonafide citizen under NSA for merely criticizing the government in bad in law. Such act on the part of the detaining authority defeats the very object of democratic principles. In a democracy, people have the right to criticize the government. It is a part of the freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India", states his habeas corpus petition.

It is also stated that the detention order detention order is passed citing an "old and stale incident" which occurred in August 2018. Issuance of detention order with a view to prevent him from committing "prejudicial activities" by citing an incident which took place in August is not proximate in time. The detention is not preventive in nature but punitive, defeating the object of NSA, he states in the petition.

It is also alleged that he was not supplied with all materials against him. Although a compact disc allegedly containing the offensive posts was supplied to him, he was not given any device to play the disc. Hence, he had no means to know the grounds of detention. That disabled him from effectively challenging the detention order, resulting in infringement of fundamental right under Article 22(5) of the Constitution of India.

"...the grounds of detention are vague and the allegations made therein did not lend apprehension for acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State and to the maintenance of public order. Those so called grounds merely relates to freedom of speech and expression at best", states the petition, filed through Advocates A.Priyokumar Sharma and S Chittaranjan Singh.

Wangkhem, who was a journalist with a local news channel ISTV, had posted a video in Facebook in August,that showed him criticising Chief Minister N Biren Singh as well as PM Modi. The video reportedly had Wangkhem calling Mr Singh a "puppet" of PM Modi.

(Image Courtesy : NDTV)