Guwahati: The Gauhati High Court has upheld the bail granted by a special NIA court to peasants’ leader Akhil Gogoi, who was charged with terrorist activities for his anti-CAA speeches in 2019, stating that under the UAPA of 1967 even “provocative speeches” could be unlawful but to be a punishable offence it must be a terrorist act challenging the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India.
“The dominant intention of the wrongdoer must be to commit a ‘terrorist act’ coming within the ambit of Section 15(1) of the Act.
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,” the two-member bench of Justice Suman Shyam and Justice Mir Alfaz Ali stated in their order.
The bench observed, “Upon analyzing the ratio laid down in the aforesaid decision of the apex court, it becomes evident that an unlawful activity under section 2(1)(o) of the Act of 1967 could even be spoken words, including 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 NIA court had granted Gogoi bail on October 1, 2020 after observing that that the allegations brought by the NIA revealed by the materials cannot be prima-facie said to be a terrorist act done with the intention of threatening the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India or a terrorist act done with the intention to strike terror in the people. The NIA subsequently challenged the lower court’s order in the high court.
The basic allegations by NIA in charge-sheet were that Akhil made provocative speeches inciting the public to resort to violence and also to draw- up plan to set the houses of the people from the Bengali community living in the Amrawati Colony (at Chabua in Dibrugarh district) on fire.
“…we are of the considered opinion that the views expressed by the learned Special Court, NIA, leading to granting of bail to the respondent is a possible view in the facts and circumstances of the case. Therefore, we do not find any error in the approach of the learned court below while exercising discretionary jurisdiction and granting bail to the respondent,” the bench added
Akhil was arrested by Assam Police on December 12, 2019 as a preventive measure while protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the state raged and resulted in violence at several places. The case was transferred to NIA two days later. Since then he has been in judicial custody from where he has contested the assembly election from Sivasagar constituency.