Other States

Activists question Assam govt’s detention of peasant leader Akhil Gogoi

KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi. File photo

KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi. File photo  

They release a statement in the wake of Supreme Court’s directive to decongest jails over COVID-19

A group of 28 social activists and professionals across India have decried the serial arrests of peasant leader Akhil Gogoi in Assam and questioned his detention in view of the Supreme Court’s directive to decongest jails for preventing COVID-19.

In a joint statement, the activists deplored the “deliberate circumvention of the norms of natural justice” in detaining Mr. Gogoi in case after case to make the bail orders ineffective. They said his continuous detention by the Assam government through repeated arrests in various cases despite being granted bail by the courts could have worrying consequences for the democracy in India.

Also read: Coronavirus: Assam reports 16 positive cases, all attended Nizamuddin meet

Trouble for the peasant leader began on September 13, 2017, when he was arrested under the National Security Act (NSA) because of an allegedly incendiary speech. The NSA charges were based on 12 cases registered against him in various police stations in the State.

The Gauhati High Court quashed the detention order but the government kept on filing charges against him.

The ongoing episode of Mr. Gogoi’s detention began on December 12, 2019, during the violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in Assam. He was handed over to the National Investigation Agency, which failed to charge-sheet him within the mandatory 90 days.

The NIA’s special court granted him bail but he was rearrested in connection with a year-old case and taken to eastern Assam’s Sivasagar on March 19. A week later, he was granted bail in a case registered in January at a police station in Guwahati.

Before he could be released, he was “shown arrested” on March 28 in a case registered with the Chabua police station in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district. This coincided with the granting of bail in the Sivasagar police station-related case.

“The advocates representing the government did not inform the court during the time of bail about the cases lodged against Akhil Gogoi at other police stations in the State. By repeatedly re-arresting him in old cases, the police violated his personal liberty. Keeping him in detention by digging up old cases is an attempt at circumventing the judicial scrutiny of executive actions,” said Apurba Kumar Baruah, a former professor of North Eastern Hill University and one of the signatories of the statement.

The activists said that Mr. Gogoi’s health was deteriorating and the jail authorities had not been giving him proper treatment. “Despite illness, Mr. Gogoi has not been hospitalised and the authorities have been merely making the rounds of the medical college, always taking him at a time when only junior doctors are present,” they said.

“We fear that something serious might happen to him, particularly when the Supreme Court has asked authorities to release even some convicts because of the spread of coronavirus. The arrests... are instances of blatant abuse of power by the government of the day. We urge upon the higher judiciary to take suo motu action on this matter,” they added.

The activists include academician Hiren Gohain, poet Ashok Vajpeyi, rights activist Cedric Prakash, retired forest officer Deb Mukharji, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan and Swaraj India’s Yogendra Yadav.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 5:01:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/activists-question-assam-govts-detention-of-peasant-leader-akhil-gogoi/article31244400.ece

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