The Gauhati High Court has granted anticipatory bail to three main accused in the shocking case of assault of journalist Milan Mahanta after his reports exposed rampant gambling by the land mafia with "strong" political links in Kamrup Rural district.
On November 15, journalist Milan Mahanta was tied to a pole in the middle of a busy road in Mirza - 45 km west of Guwahati - and beaten up by a gang of gamblers. Only one of the five accused have been arrested till now.
Three others - Abani Thakuria, Sanjay Thakuria and Biswajit Das - who can be clearly seen in the viral video of the assault on Mr Mahanta - have been granted interim anticipatory bail by the court of Justice Ajit Borthakur.
"Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, it is provided that in the event of arrest, each of the petitioners named above shall be released on interim pre-arrest bail... on furnishing bail bond of Rs 15,000," the interim order reads.
The High Court has, however, asked Abani Thakuria and Biswajit Das to appear before the investigating officer in the case. But, Sanjay Thakuria has been granted exemption till he is discharged from the hospital where he is "recovering".
Images and videos of journalist 42-year-old Milan Mahanta tied to an electricity pole and being thrashed by five men emerged last week and have since been widely circulated online, leaving the media community in shock.
Mr Mahanta, who works a leading Assamese daily Asomiya Pratidin, suffered injuries to his neck, head and ears in the incident. "They wanted to kill me, I guess. I had written a series of reports against them. They also tried to attack people who came forward to save me," he had told NDTV.
He had also flagged a delay by the police in probing the incident which led to outrage.
Earlier this week, The Editor's Guild of India, had also written to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal about the growing cases of violence against journalists in the state. The Guild, in its letter, had mentioned the attack on Mr Mahanta and urged the chief minister's "immediate intervention" to ensure journalists could report without fearing retribution from the criminal mafia.