CAA protests: Gauhati HC upholds Akhil Gogoi’s bail, says civil disturbance cannot be UAPA offence

The judges said that to attract offences punishable under the UAPA Act, the crime must be a terrorist act.

The Gauhati High Court has dismissed the Centre’s petition against the bail order of Assam peasants’ rights activist Akhil Gogoi, PTI reported on Wednesday. Gogoi was granted bail by a special National Investigation Agency court on October 1 in a case related to the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Assam in 2019. The High Court on Monday upheld the special NIA court’s order.

The bench of Justices Suman Shyam and Mir Alfaz Ali said a person may be booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act if his crime is an act of terrorism and reflects the intent to threaten India’s sovereignty, integrity and unity sufficiently.

“Unlawful act of any other nature, including acts [of] 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 court said, according to Live Law.

Gogoi, the leader of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, was placed under preventive arrest on December 12, 2019, after he staged a sit-in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which took Assam by storm, later spreading to other parts of the country. The National Investigation Agency said that Gogoi had been booked for “waging a war against the nation”, conspiracy and rioting. Three days after his arrest, the activist was charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

On October 1, the special NIA court had granted bail to Gogoi after the agency submitted its chargesheet. In its order on Monday, the High Court said, “…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 High Court said that the bail order was passed after the chargesheet was filed on June 26 and no formal charge have been framed against Gogoi yet. “The materials submitted along with the chargesheet are basically statements of the witnesses recorded under section 161 of the CrPC [Code of Criminal Procedure] which obviously do not have any evidential value,” it added.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019, offers citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, on the condition that they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. The Act had sparked huge protests across the country.

Source: Scroll

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