Economist Jean Dreze and two other activists were detained briefly in Jharkhand on Thursday for allegedly organising a meeting to discuss the Right to Food without permission, The Hindu reported. They were detained in Bishunpura in Garhwa district, and were released after allegedly furnishing personal bonds.

Dreze is a development economist and a visiting professor at the Department of Economics at Ranchi University. He contributes to

Social activist Vivek Kumar was among the three persons detained. They were detained for nearly four hours, according to The Indian Express.

Palamu Deputy Inspector General of Police Vipul Shukla told The Indian Express that the three were detained as the Model Code of Conduct is in place. “They were holding a meeting on social issues and did not take permission from SDO,” Shukla said.

Garhwa Deputy Commissioner Harsh Mangla told the daily: “When Model Code of Conduct is in place, Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code is imposed, so assembly of four or more [people is] unlawful. Dreze had asked for permission to hold a public meeting and it was rejected. We will look into it on why it was rejected.”

Dreze told NDTV that he was invited for the meeting by a local nonprofit, which had sought permission in writing from the district administration some days ago. After not getting a response, the organisers decided to go ahead with the meeting as it had no direct connection with the election, Dreze said.

“If people are not even allowed to hold peaceful non-political meetings about issues like the Right to Food at election time, then democracy has no meaning,” Dreze told NDTV.

Vivek Kumar told News18: “We had applied on March 22 to Pradeep Kumar, SDO, Garhwa district, for permission. Later they had asked us to provide details such as the Aadhaar card of the head organiser. We had furnished all that was asked for but were never intimated anything.”