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Akhil Gogoi set free, slams govt for ‘misusing’ NIA, UAPA
Assam MLA and Raijor Dal president Akhil Gogoi walked out of jail on Thursday after a special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) acquitted him of all charges in the second of the two cases related to the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act violence in the State in December 2019.

The activist-turned-politician, who represents the Sibsagar Assembly constituency in eastern Assam, was discharged in the first case on June 25. He was in jail since December 2019 and had spent the last few months in the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital due to ailments.

The NIA had pursued the cases filed under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act (UAPA) for alleged criminal conspiracy, sedition, promoting enmity between groups on grounds such as religion, race and language, assertions against national integrity, and support to a “terrorist organisation”.

The cases were registered on the basis of two FIRs lodged with the Chabua police station in Dibrugarh district and the Chandmari police station in Guwahati. The Chandmari case had the additional charge that he had links with a Maoist organisation.

“The court has proven that the government’s charges against me were bogus. This is a historic day for the Indian judiciary,” Mr. Gogoi told journalists after his release.

“A case was filed against me for my links with CPI [Maoist]. In another case, I was charged with inciting violence during the anti-CAA agitation. The court proved these were fake charges that kept me in jail for more than a year and a half,” he said.

He slammed the BJP-led State government for “misusing” the UAPA and NIA. The court’s judgement would influence future cases, he stated.

Visits anti-CAA firing victim’s house
Soon after his release, Mr. Gogoi visited the house of Sam Stafford, a schoolstudent who was among the five persons killed in the anti-CAA violence in Guwahati. He expressed solidarity with the parents of the boy who died in police firing.

Mr. Gogoi’s advocate Shantanu Borthakur said three others – Dharjya Konwar, Manas Konwar and Bittu Sonowal – who were arrested with him were also discharged on Thursday. The three, members of various wings of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti that Mr. Gogoi had founded, had been out on bail.

“The court’s ruling has exposed the State government’s attempts to target our party president,” Bhasco de Saikia, Raijor Dal working president, said.

The NIA court last week granted two days’ parole to Mr. Gogoi to meet members of his family in Guwahati and eastern Assam’s Jorhat. His 84-year-old mother Priyada Gogoi is ailing. She had campaigned for her son in the May 27 Assembly elections.

“My focus will be on working for the development of my constituency besides opposing any anti-people policy the government tries to impose,” Mr. Gogoi said.(The Hindu)


AG KK Venugopal declines permission to prosecute Swara Bhasker for contempt of court

Swara Bhasker had, on February 1, attended a panel discussion organized by NGO Mumbai Collective and during the discussion, she, as alleged by the petitioner,is believed to have made the controversial statement. (FILE PHOTO.)
Attorney General of India (AG), KK Venugopal, on Sunday, declined to grant permission for initiation of criminal contempt of court proceedings against actor Swara Bhasker for her statements criticising the Supreme Court and its judgment in the Ayodhya dispute.

Bhasker’s statement that the Supreme Court acknowledged the illegality of demolition of the Babri Masjid in its November 2019 judgment and yet rewarded the perpetrators who brought down the mosque “appears to be a factual statement” and reflects Bhasker’s perception of the incident, Venugopal said in his letter to petitioner, Usha Shetty declining the request.

“The statement appears to be a factual one and is a perception of the speaker. The comment refers to the judgment of the Supreme Court, and is not an attack on the institution. This does not offer any comment on the Supreme Court itself or say anything that would scandalize or lower the authority of the Supreme Court. In my opinion, this statement does not constitute criminal contempt,” the AG’s letter stated.

The plea against Bhasker, which was filed by Shetty on August 17, was placed before the AG for his consent to list the matter before the court.

As per Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act and Rule 3 of Rules to Regulate Proceedings for Contempt of Supreme Court, the consent of AG or the solicitor general is required before the apex court can hear a criminal contempt petition filed by a private individual.

The November 9 judgment of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya dispute, which was delivered by a bench headed by former CJI Ranjan Gogoi, had awarded the 2.77 acre disputed site to Ram Lalla Virajman, the child deity. The bench had also ordered that 5 acres of land at an alternative site should be granted to Muslims for construction of a new mosque.

The top court had, interestingly, acknowledged the existence of a valid mosque at the disputed site and had expressly stated that the acts of Hindus in placing idols inside the mosque in 1949 and destruction of the mosque in 1992 were illegal.

Bhasker had, on February 1, attended a panel discussion organized by NGO Mumbai Collective on the topic ‘Artists against Communalism’. During the discussion, Bhasker, as alleged by the petitioner, made the following statement:

“We are now in a situation where our courts are not sure whether they believe in the Constitution or not…We are living in a country where the Supreme Court of our country states in a judgment that the demolition of Babri Masjid was unlawful and in the same judgment rewards the same people who brought down the mosque.”

Regarding Bhasker’s statement about courts not believing in the Constitution, the AG said that it is a vague and general statement not related to any particular court and cannot be taken seriously.

Venugopal had on, August 20, asked the Supreme Court not to punish lawyer Prashant Bhushan for contempt of court in relation to his tweets against Supreme Court and current Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde.

After AG declined permission, Shetty’ lawyers on Sunday wrote to solicitor general Tushar Mehta seeking his consent.

Shetty submitted that the statement by Bhasker is derogatory and intended to scandalize the Supreme Court. It is not merely a cheap stunt for publicity but a deliberate attempt to incite masses to “resist and revolt against the apex court,” she added.

“The statement intends to incite feeling of no confidence amongst public with respect to the proceedings of the Supreme Court. It a


1,500 lawyers to SC: Stop miscarriage of justice in Prashant Bhushan case

Apart from seeking that the judgment be kept in abeyance, the statement urged the Supreme Court to hold an open hearing after the pandemic by a larger bench to “review the standards of criminal contempt”.

Expressing “dismay” over the conviction of advocate Prashant Bhushan by the Supreme Court in a contempt of court case, over 1,500 lawyers from across the country, including senior members of the Bar, urged the top court Monday to “take corrective steps to prevent miscarriage of justice”.

In a statement, the lawyers said a Bar “silenced under the threat of contempt” will “undermine the independence and ultimately the strength” of the Supreme Court.

Among the signatories are Sriram Panchu, Arvind Datar, Shyam Divan, Menaka Guru-swamy, Raju Ramachandran, Biswajit Bhattacharya, Navroz Seervai, Janak Dwarkadas, Iqbal Chagla, Darius Khambata, Vrinda Grover, Mihir Desai, Kamini Jaiswal and Karuna Nundy.

“This judgment does not restore the authority of the court in the eyes of the public. Rather, it will discourage lawyers from being outspoken. From the days of the supersession of judges and the events thereafter, it has been the Bar that has been the first to stand in defence of the independence of the judiciary,” the statement said, adding that a “silenced” Bar “cannot lead to a strong court”.

On August 14, the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Krishna Murari held Bhushan guilty of contempt of court for two tweets which it said were based on “distorted facts”, constituted a “scurrilous/ malicious… attack” on the “entire Supreme Court”, and had the effect of “destabilising the very foundation” of the judiciary. Arguments on the quantum of punishment are to be heard on August 20.

In their statement, the lawyers said: “An independent judiciary does not mean that judges are immune from scrutiny and comment. It is the duty of lawyers to freely bring any shortcomings to the notice of bar, bench and the public at large. While some of us may have divergent views on the advisability and content of Mr Prashant Bhushan’s two tweets, we are unanimously of the view that no contempt of court was intended or committed especially when contrasted with the normal standard that ‘Justice is not a cloistered virtue… She must be allowed to suffer the scrutiny and respectful, even though outspoken comments of ordinary men’.”

“While Mr Prashant Bhushan as a lawyer of good standing of the Supreme Court, may not be an ordinary man, his tweets do not say anything out of the ordinary, other than what is routinely expressed about the court’s working in recent years by many on public fora and on social media. Even some retired judges of the Supreme Court have expressed somewhat similar views,” the statement said.

Apart from seeking that the judgment be kept in abeyance, the statement urged the Supreme Court to hold an open hearing after the pandemic by a larger bench to “review the standards of criminal contempt”.


Curtains down on 26-year-old Isro spy case, scientist Nambi Narayanan gets justice

The Kerala government on Tuesday handed over an additional compensation of Rs 1.30 crore to former scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) Nambi Narayanan to settle the two-and-half-decade-old spy case in which he was implicated by the state police.

A case was filed by Narayanan (79) in the sessions court in Thiruvananthapuram after the Supreme Court in 2018 ordered that his arrest in the case was “unnecessary and he was implicated” and granted him an interim relief of Rs 50 lakh. The court had also observed that Narayanan deserved more and he could approach a lower court for proper compensation. Earlier, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had also ordered a relief Rs 10 lakh to him.

After the Supreme Court’s order, the Kerala government had asked former chief secretary K Jayakumar to look into the matter and fix an exact compensation amount and arrive at a settlement. Later, his suggestions were submitted before the court and a settlement was clinched. “I am happy. It is not for money alone I fought. My fight was against injustice,” Narayanan said after accepting the cheque.

The Isro spy case relates to allegations of transfer of certain confidential documents and secrets of the county’s cryogenic engine technology to enemy countries by two scientists and four others, including two Maldivian women.

The case had generated enough heat. Many books were written over the sensational case and a Bollywood director had even made a biopic on Narayanan who had to pay a heavy price along with former chief minister K Karunakaran. Its release was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Narayanan was conferred the Padma Bhushan last year.

The case surfaced in 1994 and Karunakaran was forced to quit after a section of his party led by A K Antony and Oommen Chandy revolted against him after the then police chief’s name (Ramon Srivastav) also cropped up in the case. It was alleged that two senior scientists of Isro – Nambi Narayanan and D Sasikumaran – had sold space secrets for money and sexual favours. Two Maldivian women were also arrested in connection with the case. Srivastav was then Inspector General of Police.

However, in 1998, the Supreme Court had quashed the case after accepting the CBI inquiry report that it was cooked up. When the espionage case was unearthed, Narayanan was in-charge of the cryogenic division. He was the first to introduce liquid fuel rocket technology. The country’s space technology had to suffer badly due to the espionage case, he said in one of the interviews pointing to a larger conspiracy in the case.

“Hated by all I thought of committing suicide on several occasions. But I never wanted to die as a traitor. I lived all these years only to tell this,” Naryanana had told the Hindustan Times in one of the earlier interviews


Supreme Court Contempt Case Against Prashant Bhushan, Twitter India

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a notice to senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan asking him to file a detailed response on a suo moto criminal contempt matter against him over his alleged tweets.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra also asked Twitter India to file its response in the case and fixed the matter for further hearing on August 5. The apex court also asked the Attorney General to assist the court in the case.

Senior lawyer Sajjan Poovayya, appearing for Twitter India, submitted that Twitter Inc is the correct party and added that it has been incorrectly impleaded in the case. “We can disable the tweet after a court order,” Poovayya said.

Supreme Court had taken suo motu cognisance against lawyer Prashant Bhushan for his alleged tweets. Bhushan had on June 27 accused the Supreme Court of playing a part in the “destruction of India’s democracy” in the last six years.

“When historians in the future look back at the last 6 years to see how democracy has been destroyed in India even without a formal Emergency, they will particularly mark the role of the Supreme Court in this destruction, and more particularly the role of the last four CJIs,” he had tweeted.