Back to top

Guwahati High Court suspends bail granted to human rights defender Akhil Gogoi

Status: 
In Jail
About the situation

On 7 January 2021, the Guwahati High Court rejected the bail plea of human rights defender, Akhil Gogoi.

On 14 July 2020, human rights defender Manash Konwar was released from Guwahati Jail after he was granted bail. On 15 July 2020, Bitu Sonawal was granted bail by the NIA court.

On 11 July 2020, human rights defender Akhil Gogoi tested positive for COVID-19, whilst fellow defenders Dharjya Konwar and Bitu Sonawal had both also tested positive on 9 July. All three are currently imprisoned in Guwahati Jail in Assm, as part of cases filed by the National Investigative Agency (NIA).

On 7 April 2020, the Guwahati High Court suspended the bail granted to human rights defender Akhil Gogoi in a case brought by the National Investigation Agency. The human rights defender, who suffers from serious medical conditions, is currently in Dibrugarh jail.

About Akhil Gogoi

akhil_gogoi.jpgAkhil Gogoi is a human rights defender and president of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS), an organisation working with indigenous communities in Assam to protect and promote their land rights. Akhil Gogoi is also an active campaigner against the construction of mega-dams in the state of Assam and against land grabbing. As a Right to Information (RTI) activist, he has been vocal against corruption in the public sphere.

7 January 2021
Guwahati High Court rejects Akhil Gogoi's bail plea application

On 7 January 2021, the Guwahati High Court rejected the bail plea of human rights defender, Akhil Gogoi. The defender has been in jail since 12 December 2019, in connection with a case relating to the Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests, filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Since his initial arrest, multiple First Informations Reports have been booked against him, all relating to the anti CAA protests, with charges including sedition. While in detention, in July 2020, Akhil Gogoi tested positive for COVID-19 and was moved to a hospital for immediate care.

A special NIA court had previously granted bail to Akhil Gogoi in one of the cases being probed by the NIA. Currently, the defender is being detained at the Guwahati Central Jail.

13 July 2020
Imprisoned HRDs Akhil Gogoi, Dharjya Konwar and Bitu Sonawal test positive for COVID-19 in Guwahati Jail

On 11 July 2020, human rights defender Akhil Gogoi tested positive for COVID-19, whilst fellow defenders Dharjya Konwar and Bitu Sonawal had both also tested positive on 9 July. All three are currently imprisoned in Guwahati Jail in Assm, as part of cases filed by the National Investigative Agency (NIA).

Download the Urgent Appeal

Akhil Gogoi is a human rights defender and advisor to Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS), an organisation working with indigenous communities in Assam to protect and promote their land rights. Dharjya Konwar is a human rights defender and also works with KMSS. Bitu Sonawal is with Satra Mukti Sangram Samiti (SMSS), an organisation affiliated with KMSS in Assam, working on indigenous rights, especially the right to land and against violence and atrocities against the indigenous community.

The three human rights defenders have been in Guwahati Jail since December 2019 when they were arrested for their significant roles in the anti-CAA campaign in Assam. Front Line Defenders believes that their arrest and incarceration under the Indian Penal Code and the regressive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is solely due to their peaceful human rights work. Despite Supreme Court directives to de-congest prisons in the context of COVID-19, the defenders remain imprisoned and are prevented from seeing family members and have limited access to their lawyers, who are limited to two-minute-long consultations with their clients. In one case, when the defenders were granted bail, a new FIR was filed against them so as to prevent their release. Their current applications for bail are pending before the Guwahati High Court. A fourth defender Manash Konwar, member of the SMSS who was held along with them, was granted bail on 13 July, however at the time of writing, prison authorities have refused to release him, claiming that Guwahati prison is a ‘containment zone’.

There has been growing concern for the health and safety of the three imprisoned defenders due to COVID-19 and the heightened risks of infection they face whilst in prison. On 7 July 2020, Akhil Gogoi was unable to attend a virtual hearing before the special NIA Court due to ill health. The defender is already particularly vulnerable due to medical conditions he suffers from, including a condition affecting his kidneys. The NIA Court ordered that the three defenders and Manash Konwar be tested and given treatment. Since testing positive for the virus on 9 and 11 July, all three have been transferred to a government run hospital in Guwahati for treatment. In media footage of Akhil Gogoi being transferred to the hospital, he appears extremely weak and denounced the judicial harassment they had been subjected to.

Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned for the safety and well-being of the three defenders who have been imprisoned due to their peaceful human rights work. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk human rights defenders in India are already faced with, as they now risk their health as well their liberty and reputation. In recent months there has been a distinctive escalation of persecution of defenders in India who speak out about regressive laws and policies. Front Line Defenders has condemned the crackdown on human rights defenders peacefully protesting the CAA, including Akhil Gogoi, Dharjya Konwar, Bitu Sonawal and Manash Konwar. Their continued incarceration despite the inevitable impact on their health and is a reflection of the level of disregard for the safety and protection of defenders in India.

10 April 2020
Guwahati High Court suspends bail granted to human rights defender Akhil Gogoi

On 7 April 2020, the Guwahati High Court suspended the bail granted to human rights defender Akhil Gogoi in a case brought by the National Investigation Agency. The human rights defender, who suffers from serious medical conditions, is currently in Dibrugarh jail.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Akhil Gogoi is a human rights defender and president of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity (KMSS), an organisation working with indigenous communities in Assam to protect and promote their land rights. Akhil Gogoi is also an active campaigner against the construction of mega-dams in the state of Assam and against land grabbing. As a Right to Information (RTI) activist, he has been vocal against corruption in the public sphere.

On 7 April 2020, the Guwahati High Court issued an interim stay order on the default bail granted to Akhil Gogoi in a case relating to the Anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests, filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The human rights defender was first arrested on 12 December 2019 under charges relating to Section 120B (criminal conspiracy), 124A (sedition), 153 A (hate speech) and 153 B (imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and under sections 18 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, that relate to conspiracy and support given to a terrorist organisation.

On 17 March 2020, a special NIA court granted default bail to the human rights defender, after the NIA had failed to file a charge-sheet within 90 days of his arrest. The NIA had sought an extension of another 90 days to file a charge-sheet, but the petition was rejected by the special NIA court. Following the rejection of the petition, the NIA appealed to the Guwahati High Court, challenging the special NIA court’s decision. While the High Court admitted the case, it did not pass a stay order until 7 April 2020.

Despite being granted bail on 17 March, the defender was never released from custody. On 19 March 2020, two days after the default bail was granted, Akhil Gogoi was re-arrested after a case was lodged by police under Section 153A of the IPC, a non-bailable section. The defender’s lawyer has stated that no prior information was given before the arrest and that old cases are being brought up to ensure the human rights defender remains in detention.

In the context of COVID-19 and specific risks to prison inmates, the response of the court is alarming. Globally and nationally there have been measures to reduce congestion in prisons in response to the unprecedented crisis. The Indian Supreme Court has also made directives in this regard in the context of the pandemic. Akhil Gogoi has now been in custody for over three months without any progress in the investigations against him. He suffers from serious medical conditions, including damage to his kidneys, which the court was aware of.

Front Line Defenders condemns the ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Akhil Gogoi, as it believes that they are a direct reprisal against his peaceful human rights work, and the exercise of his freedom of expression, which are protected under the Constitution of India. Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned about the safety of Akhil Gogoi and other human rights defenders, including members of KMSS, Dahirjya Konwar, Bitu Sonowal and Manash Konwar, who continue to be imprisoned in the context of COVID-19.