EXCLUSIVE: “Merely Causing Civil Disturbance Without Intention To Commit ‘Terrorist Act’ Will Not Be UAPA Offence”: GHC Upholds Akhil Gogoi’s Bail
GUWAHATI: The Gauhati high court has dismissed the State appeal filed against the order of a Special NIA Court that granted bail to activist Akhil Gogoi last year, in connection with a case of rioting during the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The court was responding to the plea by the State against the lower court’s bail grant in connection to a case registered against Gogoi at Chabua police station in Dibrugarh district.
A division bench comprising of Justices Suman Shyam and Mir Alfaz Ali held that merely causing civil disturbance, without the element of intention to cause ‘terrorist act’ would not fall within the ambit of unlawful activity under section 2(1)(o) of the UAPA Act.
The court made it clear that mere that to attract the offences punishable under the Unlawful Assemblies (Prevention) Act, 1967— the act complained of must be a “terrorist act” committed with the intention to threaten the integrity, sovereignty of India, etc.
In its order on April 9, the court stated, “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.”
Gogoi was slapped with charges under section 15 (1) (1)/16 of the UA (P) Act, under which the charge sheet was submitted in August last year.
Gogoi had allegedly led a crowd of 6000 persons and caused economic blockade and pelting of stones. It was also alleged that the mob led by Gogoi tried to murder the police personnel on duty.
His counsel, advocate Santanu Borthakur told TIME8, “The high court dismissing the prayer of the State has upheld the lower court’s granting of bail to Gogoi. He is only to receive bail in the Chandmari police station case, a trial of which is undergoing at the lower court.”
Gogoi has contested the recently concluded state assembly polls from Sibsagar seat while under judicial custody. He has been under judicial custody since his arrest in December 2019.
The high court also observed that it may be true that taking advantage of the public sentiment associated with the enactment of CAA, Gogoi had delivered fiery speeches whipping up strong passion amongst the masses, which in turn, had led to violent activities which are punishable under the law.
“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 held.
The UAPA Act primarily deals with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India.