Assam activist and Sibsagar MLA Akhil Gogoi walked free on Thursday after a special NIA court in Guwahati cleared him of all charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA for his alleged role in violent anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in the state in December 2019.
In the 120-page order, the court said there was no “prima facie materials to frame charges against the accused persons” and the “ends of justice demands that the accused be discharged, without making him suffer the process of trial”.
The court also said it had found the “conduct and approach of the investigating authority/prosecution in this case, to be discouraging, to say the least”.
It added, “The court has high expectations from a premier investigating agency like the NIA, entrusted with the profoundly important task of protecting our country and us, citizens from the menace of terrorism. The court hopes and expects that, such high standards will be upheld, for sake of the country and this one will be just an exception.”
Soon after his release, the MLA visited the home of Sam Stafford, the 17-year-old student who died in police firing during the anti-CAA protests in 2019, later on Thursday. He is scheduled to leave for his constituency Sibsagar on Friday morning.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Gogoi said, “The government has misused the UAPA and NIA — therefore, my release today is significant not just for me but it will set a precedent for the rest of the country too.”
After violence broke out at anti-CAA rallies across Assam, several cases were filed against Gogoi at police stations across the state, of which two — filed at Chandmari and Chabua — were taken over by the NIA. In both cases, Gogoi was charged with sedition and under provisions of the UAPA, among other offences.
Gogoi was first arrested on December 12, 2020 in Jorhat following an anti-CAA rally. His case was shifted to the NIA two days later, with the Chandmari FIR claiming that Gogoi had “secretly merged” his organization, KMSS, with the Revolutionary Communist Centre and the latter was later merged with the banned CPI (Maoist).
Gogoi was subsequently cleared in all the cases, barring the Chandmari and Chabua cases.
His bail plea in the Chandmari case was first rejected by the Gauhati High Court in January and by the Supreme Court in February. After Gogoi was cleared in the Chabua case in June, the NIA had introduced a supplementary chargesheet in the Chandmari case.
“But today he has been discharged and is free of all charges. It’s a 120 page judgment. The court said that the witnesses were not found to be worthy in the chargesheet filed,” Gogoi’s lawyer said.
Gogoi has long been agitating for the rights of peasants in Assam. He has also been vocal about land rights issues, evictions and big dam projects, among others. In the state elections this year, Gogoi, who leads the newly formed regional party Raijor Dal, became the first jailed leader in Assam to win an assembly election, winning the Sibsagar seat in Upper Assam with a margin of 11,875 votes.
In July 2020, Gogoi was admitted to the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital after testing positive for Covid-19. Following that, he has remained in the hospital because of other health issues. Last week he was granted a 48-hour parole to visit his ailing mother, Priyada Gogoi, 84. Her involvement in Gogoi’s election campaign is believed to have given it a big boost, leading to his victory.
Bhasco De Saikia, working president, Raijor Dal said, “The court’s ruling just proves that the government was trying to target Gogoi and keep him in prison for political reasons. This is a big step and significant for the independence of the judiciary.”
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