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Gauhati High Court dismisses state plea; upholds NIA court bail to Akhil Gogoi

GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has dismissed a state appeal against a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court bail to peasant leader Akhil Gogoi last year, in a case of alleged rioting during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The court order was on a plea by the Assam government against the lower court’s bail in connection with a case registered against Gogoi at Chabua police station in Dibrugarh district.

Setting aside the state plea, the high court upheld the NIA court order granting bail to Gogoi. The Raijor Dal president, who is lodged in Guwahati Central Jail, now has to secure bail in only one case lodged in Chandmari police station here. He was arrested from Jorhat in December 2019.

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A division bench comprising Justices Mir Alfaz Ali and Suman Shyam held that mere civil disturbance, without the intention to cause “terrorist act” does not fall within the ambit of unlawful activity under Section 2(1)(o) of the Unlawful Assemblies (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967.

The court, in its April 9 order, said: “… an unlawful activity under section 2(1)(o) of the Act of 1967 could even be spoken words including a provocative speeches but in order to constitute an offence under the Act of 1967 the same must be done with the intention to cause death of, or injuries to any person or persons, or to cause loss of or damage to or destruction of any property aimed at disturbing the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of the country.

“The dominant intention of the wrongdoer must be to commit a ‘terrorist act’ coming within the ambit of section 15(1) of the Act. In other words, unless the act complained of strictly comes within the letter and spirit of section 2(1) (o) read with section 15(1) of the Act, the provisions of the Act of 1967 would not be applicable. What, therefore, follows is that unlawful act of any other nature, including acts arson and violence aimed at creating civil disturbance and law and order problems, which may be punishable under the ordinary law, would not come within the purview of section 15(1) of the Act of 1976 unless it is committed with the requisite intention.”

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Gogoi has been charges under Section 15 (1) (1)/16 of the UAPA, under which the chargesheet was submitted in August last year.

The case pertains to Chabua PS Case No 289/2019, registered under Section 120-B/147/148/149/336/307/353/326 of IPC. Subsequently, on the prayer of investigating officer, Section 153 A/153B IPC r/w Section 15 (1) (a), /16 of UAPA were added.

Observing that it may be true that Gogoi might have delivered fiery speeches taking advantage of the public sentiment associated with the enactment of the CAA, to whip up strong passion among the masses, which in turn, led to violent activities which are punishable under the law.

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“However, what would be of utmost significance, in this case, is to consider as to whether the materials placed of record by the investigating agency was sufficient for the Court to prima facie believe that the accused/ respondent had delivered such provocative speeches with the intent to commit a “terrorist act” within the meaning of section 15(1)(a) of the Act of 1967, thereby challenging the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India,” the division bench ruled.

According to the charges, Gogoi had allegedly led a crowd of 6000 people and enforced economic blockade apart from pelting stones and that the mob led by Gogoi tried to “murder” a police personnel on duty.

Gogoi has contested the Assam assembly elections from Sibsagar constituency from jail.

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