GUWAHATI: Stating that someone accused of civil disturbance can’t be booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act unless it qualifies to be an act of terror, the Gauhati high court has upheld the bail granted by a
special NIA court
to jailed activist-turned-politician Akhil Gogoi. The
had given bail to Gogoi, who was booked under the stringent law for his anti-CAA speeches in 2019 on October 1 last year.
"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 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 two-judge bench of
Suman Shyam and Justice Mir Alfaz Ali said.
While even spoken words, including provocative speeches, can be construed as unlawful activity under Section 2(1)(0) of the1967 legislation, "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 bench said.
The lower court had granted Gogoi bail after observing that the allegations brought by the agency could not, prima facie, said to be a terrorist act perpetrated with the intention of threatening the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India or to strike terror among the people. The
subsequently challenged the bail order in the high court.
The basic allegations levelled by the NIA in its chargesheet are that Gogoi made provocative speeches, inciting the public to resort to violence and draw up a plan to set fire to houses belonging to people from the Bengali community living in the Amrawati Colony at Chabua in Dibrugarh district.
"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 said.
Gogoi, who is contesting the Sivasagar assembly seat this election, was taken into preventive custody by police on December 12, 2019 as protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill raged in the state, resulting in violence at several places. The case was transferred to the NIA two days later. He has been in judicial custody since.