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Supreme Court grants bail to MLA Akhil Gogoi in case under UAPA for delivering provocative speech during anti-CAA agitation

The Supreme Court granted bail on Monday to Sibsagar MLA and activist Akhil Gogoi, who was arrested under the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act for allegedly delivering provocative speeches against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and for his alleged links to Maoist organisations. 

The Assamese activist-turned-politician had moved the Apex Court against the Gauhati High Court order, which had set aside his discharge in the case.

The Bench of Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Justice Pankaj Mithal upheld the Gauhati High Court order in all aspects, with only one modification. It directed release of the Assamese peasant leader till the completion of trial, subject to such terms and conditions as may be imposed by the special court.

Earlier on March 21, the Apex Court had reserved its verdict in the case. 

The High Court had remanded the discharge application for fresh consideration after finding fault with the trial court for not granting sufficient time to the NIA to contest the matter.

Representing Gogoi, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi had earlier contended before the Supreme Court that sending the Legislator back to jail after being ‘at liberty’ for almost two years on the basis of flimsy evidence, some of which was from before 2009, would be a ‘travesty’ of justice. 

Besides, the High Court ought not to have made observations on the merits of the case while setting aside the discharge order and remanding it to the trial court, he submitted. 

Hufeza urged the top court of the country to modify the High Court order to the extent that it refused Gogoi’s ancillary prayer for bail and grant him protection from arrest. Besides, he sought direction to the trial court to consider the matter remanded to it, without being ‘truncated’ by the observations of the High Court. 

The Senior Counsel alleged that it was a clear case of ‘political vendetta’.

Representing the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati argued that the opposite side was attempting to minimise the seriousness of allegations against the accused. 

She submitted that Maoist organisations were making the country bleed by a hundred cuts, if not a thousand cuts. They were waging a war against the government, especially against the security agencies, the protectors of the nation. The rule of law itself was being threatened by these organisations.

As per Bhati, the first protected witness admitted that when he told Gogoi about Maoist training in the state, the MLA categorically said that there was no need to indulge in such kind of activity in Assam then. The statement has been placed on record by the prosecution. 

Ahmadi said the incidents mentioned in the statement of the second protected witness took place before 2009. Incidents from 2009 were sought to be used in 2020. Even the trial judge had said that there has to be some proximate nexus. 

He further said the Communist Party of India (Maoist) became a proscribed organisation in July 2009. Gogoi could not be implicated for alleged participation in a political organisation which was not proscribed then.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta interjected by saying that the Communist Party of India (Maoist) was never a political organisation. It may have been proscribed at any point in time, but it was never a political organisation. It was doing, to put it mildly, unlawful activities, noted the SG.

Bhati further apprised the Apex Court that it was not easy to get clinching evidence of the current involvement of operatives. The available statements showed the link between the calculated efforts to subvert the government and the accused. It was not so after 2009, when Gogoi turned into a public leader and a saint.

Ahmadi further questioned the charges levelled against Gogoi by NIA, saying that inter alia, if calling bandhs for one or two days threatened the economic security of the nation, then most of the political leaders of the country should be charged under the UAPA. 

He also pointed out that the special NIA court found no evidence to hold the Assamese activist guilty personally or vicariously for specific incidents of vandalism during various agitations.

The ASG raised objection to the argument and said that charges under the UAPA were not with regard to bandhs, peaceful dharnas or shutdowns. 

There was a far graver charge of supporting terrorist organisations and waging a war against an elected government by using various illegal methods, she added. 

(Case title: Akhil Gogoi vs National Investigation Agency and ors)

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