SC issues notice on plea filed by Assam MLA over constitutionality of sedition law
Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi had earlier been charged with Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)
The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice on the plea filed by activist-turned-Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi against his prosecution under Section 124A (sedition) of the IPC.
A bench, headed by CJI D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra made the notice returnable in three weeks on the interim relief, pending the decision of the top court on the constitutionality of the provision relating to sedition.
The apex court also tagged Gogoi’s plea challenging the constitutional validity of sedition law along with related offences with the main matter pending before it.
On May 11 last year, the Supreme Court had put on hold the colonial-era penal provision of sedition and had asked the Centre and state governments to refrain from registering any FIRs under the sedition provision.
Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, appearing for Gogoi, contended that the independent member of the Assam Assembly is accused of “speech offences” which are in the nature of political acts of critique, covered squarely within Section 124-A.
Gogoi, who is facing prosecution under Section 124A, among other similar provisions, has sought a stay on the proceedings pending before the Special Judge, NIA Guwahati. Since 2017 till 2021, the activist-turned-politician has been charged with numerous sedition-related offences, the majority of which stem from his protests against the 2019 Citizenship Amendment Act.
“The petitioner is all the more prejudiced because his dissenting speech, which is only critical of the CAB/CAA, is always seen as a symptom of some deep-rooted conspiracy. Similarly, misdemeanours, or even IPC offences are elevated to the level of 'terrorist activities' as defined under the UAPA,” said the plea filed through advocate Ivo Manuel Simon D’Costa.
Gogoi was also slapped with Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and he is now on bail.
Earlier in 2021, a special court in Assam discharged him of UAPA charges, however, later the Gauhati High Court set aside the special court's judgement and the case against the legislator has been continued. He moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing the High Court judgement. But the top courty upheld the High Court order though it granted bail to Gogoi in April this year.
A two-judge bench of the top court also said the Sivasagar MLA will remain out on bail during the period of trial meeting the special court's conditions. He was jailed for quite a long time after he was arrested amid the anti-CAA protests in December 2019. Gogoi fought the 2021 Assembly election from jail and won as an independent candidate.