The Supreme Court has asked the Meghalaya government to immediately release Garo National Liberation Army chief Champion R Sangma, The Shillong Times reported on Thursday. The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by advocates Shahrukh Alam and Liz Mathew against Sangma’s detention.

The bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan on Tuesday set aside an order passed by a district court in Meghalaya earlier this year. On January 24, the district court had allowed the prosecution to file an application against Sangma’s bail. The Supreme Court said the application was defective as Sangma had not filed any bail plea in this case because he was never formally arrested.

“We repeatedly asked the learned counsel for the respondent [Meghalaya Police] to point out as to under what provision, in the aforesaid circumstances, this application should be filed when there was no formal arrest of the petitioner, though nobody prevented the respondent to arrest the petitioner in the aforesaid case,” said the bench, according to The Indian Express. “Learned counsel for the respondent could not give any reply to the aforesaid question.”

Sangma is accused in at least nine criminal cases. In 2011, a first information report was filed against him but Sangma was not arrested because he was on the run, according to the prosecution. Sangma was declared an absconder and a chargesheet was filed in 2012.

Sangma has been in custody since July 30, 2012. He moved the Supreme Court alleging that the police had implicated him in different cases.

“Even if the allegations contained in chargesheet…are serious, the respondent is supposed to act in accordance with law,” said the bench. “The manner in which the respondent proceeded in this matter is clearly impermissible, violative of the rule of law and offends the petitioner’s right under Article 21 of the Constitution as he has been detained in custody by adopting totally faulty and illegal process.”