Supreme Court: The bench of V. Ramasubramanian* and Pankaj Mithal, JJ has affirmed Gauhati High Court’s order reversing an Order of discharge passed by the Special Court, NIA, Guwahati, Assam against Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi in relation to the anti-CAA protest case but has directing his release on bail, pending trial, subject to conditions imposed by the Special Court.
The Court noted that,
“This is not a case where the petitioner should be allowed to be detained in custody, especially after having secured an order of discharge, rightly or wrongly.”
In the case at hand, Akhil Gogoi was arrested in December, 2019 for his alleged role in the anti-CAA protests that turned violent. He was booked by the NIA under UAPA. After suffereing incarceration for about 567 days from 17.12.2019 to 01.07.2021, Akhil Gogoi was discharged by the Special Court and he has been out as a free man for the past more than 21 months.
The Court noted that Akhil Gogoi’s freedom was secured not by an order of bail, but by an order of discharge passed by the Special Court, which has now been reversed by the High Court, on two grounds, namely,
(i) that the prosecution was not granted sufficient opportunity by the Special Court to respond to the written submissions filed at the last minute by the accused, running to about 1225 pages; and
(ii) that at the stage of framing of charges, the Special Court ought not to have entered into minute details. Since the High Court was reversing the order of discharge only on these two grounds, the High Court actually remanded the matter back to the Special Court for a fresh consideration.
Consequently, the Special Court is now obliged to hear both parties and take a fresh call as to whether charges can be framed against all or any of the accused and, if so, under what provisions of law.
It also noteworthy that the application for bail filed by the petitioner, during the period when investigation was pending, was rejected by the Supreme Court on 11.02.2021 by observing that it was not inclined to grant bail to Akhil Gogoi “at this stage”. The Court noted that the dismissal of the application for bail at the time when investigation was pending, is no ground to reject the prayer for protection against arrest, now made by Gogoi.
Nothing was brought on record to show that during the period of 21 months, when Akhil Gogoi has been a free man, he has indulged in any unlawful activity. On the contrary, he got elected to the Legislative Assembly in the year 2021 and he is now a sitting member of the Assembly.
The Court also explained that except in cases of preventive detention, the purpose of detaining a person in police/judicial custody, is either to facilitate fair and proper investigation or as a measure of penalty after conviction. In this case, (i) the investigation is over and (ii) the petitioner is not yet a convicted criminal. Therefore, the Court was of the opinion that no purpose will be served in allowing the Special Court to remand him to custody and then enabling him to move an application for bail.
[Akhil Gogoi v. State, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 438, decided on 18-04-2023]
*Judgment authored by Justice V Ramasubramanian
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner(s): Mr. Huzefa Ahmadi, Sr. Adv. Mr. Ninad Laud, Adv. Mr. Santanu Borthakur, Adv. Mr. Ivo Dcosta, Adv. Mr. Karan Mathur, Adv. Mr. Sahil Tagotra, AOR;
For Respondent(s): Mr. Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General Mrs. Aishwarya Bhati, A.S.G. Mr. Kanu Agarwal, Adv. Mr. Shuvodeep Raoy, Adv. Mrs. Chitrangda Rastrawara, Adv. Mr. Rustam Singh Chauhan, Adv. Ms. B.L.N. Shivani, Adv. Mr. Arvind Kumar Sharma, AOR.