Lakshadweep tourism official arrested, granted bail

His FB post said islanders were in distress as only two ships operated to the mainland

December 19, 2021 12:16 am | Updated 12:16 am IST - KOCHI

Hussain Manikfan, Assistant Director of Lakshadweep Tourism, was arrested on Friday night by the Lakshadweep Police following a Facebook post in which he said that only two of the total seven ships that link the isles with the mainland were operating, with the result that the islanders were in distress.

He was granted bail by the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Androth, which termed the arrest as “misuse of power”. The police had charged him under non-bailable provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

His FB post read: “Only 2 of the 7 ships are running and people are going through hell. In a skewed logic, this will be a justification for not requiring more ships.” He further mentioned that the ships could be made operational in no time, if there was will.

The comments came in the wake of the alleged delay in towing a ship, m.v. Kavaratti , whose engine room was damaged in a fire a fortnight ago, to Kochi, for repairs and generally the wholly “inadequate” number of services to mainland Kerala.

Mr. Manikfan’s counsel Adv. P.K. Saleem said the FB post was well within the freedom of speech assured by the Indian Constitution. Government employees too enjoy the same freedom to engage in constructive criticism. The ships under the Ports Department of the Lakshadweep Administration are operated by the Lakshadweep Development Corporation. With most of them not operating, people who want to sail to Kerala for medical and other reasons are left in the lurch, he added.

On the police arresting him under Section 505 (2) and 505 (1)(b) of the IPC, he said the FB post did not in any way affect public tranquillity, especially so since the isles have remained peaceful, (five days) after the post. “The Supreme Court had repeatedly and categorically stated that none should take offence to constructive criticism. That is the reason why the court termed the arrest as “misuse of power”, more so since it was carried out in the middle of the night.

Mr. Manikfan had to be hospitalised soon after his arrest, after his health condition deteriorated. He has only three more years to retire from service, it is learnt.

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