HC nixes NIA court order, allows agency to frame charges against Akhil Gogoi for anti-CAA stir

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Akhil Gogoi | Photo: ANI

Guwahati: The Gauhati High Court on Thursday allowed the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to frame charges against Independent MLA Akhil Gogoi and three of his associates in connection with anti-CAA protests and suspected Maoist links.

Hearing a petition by the probe agency challenging the order of a Special NIA Court giving clean chit to the four, a division bench comprising Justices Suman Shyam and Malasri Nandi asked the agency to go ahead with framing charges after reopening the case.

"The high court has accepted NIA's plea to reopen the case and frame charges against the four persons. The case will be heard again in the Special NIA Court," Gogoi's counsel Santanu Borthakur said.

The other three accused were Dhaijya Konwar, Bittu Sonowal and Manash Konwar, all of whom got bail in the NIA case and were released from the jail.

Gogoi was the only one whose bail was rejected by the court and he was released after spending 567 days in jail once Special NIA Judge Pranjal Das cleared him along with the three others of all charges.

The Assam assembly legislator said he and the three others have been asked to appear before the Special NIA Court on February 23.

"I am going to challenge this verdict in the Supreme Court. I am hopeful of a positive outcome there," the Raijor Dal chief told PTI.

The NIA was investigating two cases of Gogoi related to anti-CAA protests. In one of those, the Special NIA Court had granted him bail, which was upheld by the Gauhati High Court too in April 2021 after the probe agency challenged it.

The RTI activist continued to be in judicial custody as he was rejected bail in the second case related to anti-CAA violence and was being investigated by the NIA.

Later, the Special NIA Court on July 1, 2021 released Gogoi and his three associates for their alleged role in the violent anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act stir in the state in December 2019 and observed there was nothing to indicate "talk of blockade" threatened the country's economic security or was "a terrorist act."

The NIA then moved the Gauhati High Court appealing it to allow the agency frame charges under various sections, including sedition, of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

A senior advocate, who wished not to be named, said that if the Supreme Court does not give relief to Gogoi, he will be arrested as soon as he appears before the Special NIA Court.

"All the sections are non-bailable and Gogoi's bail application was rejected by that court. He was released because the case was closed. So, he will be arrested if the apex court does not give him bail or any relief," she added.

Once Gogoi is arrested, he will then have the option to move a bail application from jail. This process will take around one month, meaning Gogoi might have to spend at least one month in jail again, the advocate said.

Addressing a press conference in the evening, Gogoi said, "I never compromised in my life. This is another test for my honesty and pro-people stand. I was asked to compromise while I was in jail, but never did so."

In a strongly worded judgement, the Special NIA Court had said that in the interests of justice, it found the conduct and approach of the investigating authority in the case to be "discouraging", to say the least.

"The court has high expectations from a premier investigating agency like the NIA, entrusted with the profoundly important task of protecting our country and us, citizens from the menace of terrorism.

"The court hopes and expects that, such high standards will be upheld, for sake of the country and this one will be just an exception," the Special NIA Judge Pranjal Das had said in his order.


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