The Gauhati High Court on Wednesday granted absolute pre-arrest bail to prominent intellectual Dr Hiren Gohain and popular activist Akhil Gogoi who were slapped with sedition charges last month for alleged secessionist comments during a public rally against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
In January, Gohain, Gogoi and journalist Manjit Mahanta were booked on charges of sedition — and Mahanta had obtained an absolute pre-arrest bail soon after the charges were slapped.
Wednesday’s order said that the speeches made by them were produced in a pen drive and was played before the court. The order by Justice Hitesh Kumar Sarma said, “It does not appear to this Court that any such statement was made by the petitioner Nos 1 and 3, in their speeches, in the meeting involved in this case, requiring their custodial interrogation.”
“To avoid any impact of this order in the process of investigation of this case, this Court refrains from commenting on the materials available in the case diary. However, on the basis of the materials in the case diary, the tentative view of this Court is that the custodial interrogation of the petitioner Nos. 1 and 3 is not necessary,” the order said.
The complaint against the trio was registered by the officer-in-charge of Latashil police station Upen Kalita. His complaint written in Assamese translates into that Gogoi criticised the Bill in his speech and talked about “initiating a struggle for a sovereign Assam, independent of India”.
It added that Gohain had “expressed support” for Gogoi in his speech and commenting on “going to villages and campaigning against the central and state governments.
The complaint added, “Although a democratic congregation, the meeting witnessed anti-India statements by all speakers, so I request action be initiated against them.”
The Bill amends the Citizenship Act, 1955 by relaxing the eligibility rules for an immigrant — belonging to six minority (non-Muslim) religions, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan — in getting Indian citizenship.