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'Mere Civil Disturbance Will Not Be UAPA Offence Unless Committed With Intention To Commit 'Terrorist Act': Gauhati High Court Upholds Bail For Akhil Gogoi

12 April 2021 10:53 AM GMT
Mere Civil Disturbance Will Not Be UAPA Offence Unless Committed With Intention To Commit Terrorist Act: Gauhati High Court Upholds Bail For Akhil Gogoi

The Gauhati High Court has dismissed the State appeal filed against the order of a Special NIA Court that granted bail to activist Akhil Gogoi last year, in connection with a case of rioting.

While doing so, a Division Bench comprising of Justices Suman Shyam and Mir Alfaz Ali made it clear that mere that to attract the offences punishable under the Unlawful Assemblies (Prevention) Act, 1967— the act complained of must be a "terrorist act" committed with the intention to threaten the integrity, sovereignty of India, etc.

It further held that merely causing civil disturbances, without the element of intention to cause 'terrorist act' would not fall within the ambit of unlawful activity under section 2(1)(o) of the UAPA Act.

The order stated,

" unlawful activity under section 2(1)(o) of the Act of 1967 could even be spoken words including a 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 dominant intention of the wrong doer must be to commit a 'terrorist act' coming within the ambit of section 15(1) of the Act. In other words, unless the act complained of strictly comes within the letter and spirit of section 2(1)(o) read with section 15(1) of the Act, the provisions of the Act of 1967 would not be applicable. 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."

Reliance was placed on Supreme Court's judgment in State through Superintendent of Police, CBI/SIT v. Nalini & Ors., (1999) 5 SCC 253.

It was alleged that Akhil Gogoi had led a crowd of 6000 persons and caused economic blockade and pelting of stones, one of hit the face of the informant and injured him grievously. It was also alleged that the mob led by Akhil Gogoi tried to murder the police personnel on duty.

On the basis of the said ejahar, Chabua P.S. Case No. 289/2019 was registered under Section 120-B/147/148/149/336/307/353/326 of IPC and investigation started. Subsequently, on the prayer of IO Section 153 A/153B IPC r/w Section 15 (1) (a), /16 of the UA(P) Act were added.

The case against him was investigated under S. 15 (1) (1)/16 of the UA(P) Act, under which Charges sheet dated 26-06-2020 was submitted against Akhil Gogoi under Section 16.

The Special NIA Court had however allowed Gogoi's bail plea, while stating that the tone and tenor of his speech might have been "aggressive" on the much-debated issue of CAA, rather than the speech directly inciting violence.

"The Tone And Tenur Of The Speech Might Have Been Aggressive But His Speech Didn't Directly Incite Violence": NIA Court Grants Bail To Activist Akhil Gogoi

The Trial Court further observed that "omission and commissions of Akhil Gogoi revealed by the materials cannot be prima facie said to be a terrorist act was done with the intention of threatening the Unity, Integrity, Sovereignty and Security of India or a terrorist act done with the intention to strike terror in the people."

Upholding the threadbare analysis of the Trial Court, the High Court observed that it may be true that taking advantage of the public sentiment associated with enactment of CAA, Gogoi had delivered fiery speeches whipping up strong passion amongst the masses, which in turn, had led to violent activities which are punishable under the law.

It may also be correct to say that the violence resorted by the members of the mob was the direct fall out of the speech delivered by the respondent.

"However, what would be of utmost significance in this case is to consider as to whether the materials placed of record by the investigating agency was sufficient for the Court to prima facie believe that the accused/ respondent had delivered such provocative speeches with the intent to commit a "terrorist act" within the meaning of section 15(1)(a) of the Act of 1967, thereby challenging the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India," the Division Bench held.

It noted that the primary objective of the UAPA Act is to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India. Therefore, it is a special statute to deal with certain specified types of offences including terrorist acts.

Case Title: State v. Akhil Gogoi

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