The Gauhati High Court on Thursday allowed the National Investigation Agency to frame charges against Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi and three of his associates in connection with anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in the state in December 2019, reported PTI.
In 2021, the investigating agency had challenged an order of a special National Investigation Agency Court dismissing the charges against Gogoi. He was booked by the National Investigation Agency on charges of sedition and under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
A bench of Justices Suman Shyam and Malasri Nandi asked the agency on Thursday to frame charges after reopening the case. “The case will be heard again in the special NIA court,” Gogoi’s counsel Santanu Borthakur told PTI.
The Special National Investigation Agency Court has asked the Independent MLA from Sibsagar constituency and three other co-accused pesons – Dhirjya Konwar, Manas Konwar, and Bittu Sonowal – to appear on February 23.
“I am going to challenge this verdict in the Supreme Court,” Gogoi told PTI. “I am hopeful of a positive outcome there.”
The investigating agency had argued in the High Court that Gogoi and the three others conspired to incite hatred and disaffection towards the government by using the Citizenship Amendment Act as a pretext, reported Live Law.
But in its order, passed on July 1, 2021, the special court had noted that from his speeches available on record, Gogoi cannot be accused of any incitement to violence.
“Protests in a democracy are sometimes seen to take the form of blockades and even causing inconvenience to citizens,” the special court had noted. “However, it is doubtful whether such blockades for temporary periods, if unaccompanied by any incitement to violence, would constitute a terrorist act within the meaning of Section 15 of the UA(P) Act. This is beyond the intention of the legislature. There can be other laws to address that.”
The case against Gogoi
On December 12, 2019, the activist was placed under preventive custody after his protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The National Investigation Agency had said that Gogoi was 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.
The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on December 11, 2019, provides 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 sparked huge protests across the country.
The politician was later granted bail in October and the Gauhati High Court had upheld the verdict in April 2020.