Assam leader Akhil Gogoi, who was jailed over protests against the contentious citizenship law in December, 2019, this afternoon walked out of the prison, hours after a special NIA (National Investigation Agency) court cleared him in a pending case.
Mr Gogoi was charged under anti-terror law UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act]. He was also accused of sedition. His three aides were also cleared in the case over their alleged role in anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) violent protests that broke out in Assam after the law was cleared by parliament in 2019.
Shortly after the court's decision, Mr Gogoi, who was elected as MLA from Sibasagar constituency in April-May Assam elections, said: "Today is a historic day for independent judiciary."
"Everywhere, we are seeing that there in no democratic atmosphere in Indian polity and policy. But this judgement gives us hope. The UAPA is a draconian law... it should be scrapped. Now, I will fight against the anti-terror law."
Hitting out at the BJP, he said: "In Assam, political and social atmosphere is no more democratic. There is no democratic spirit in any action of the ruling BJP. If you say anything on social media, or in public domain, a case is filed against you or you're arrested. They (BJP) will make Assam another Uttar Pradesh."
On winning elections, he said: "The victory in polls was historic. I did not have not spend a single penny from my pocket for the election campaign." Mr Gogoi had won the election even though he couldn't campaign.
Reiterating his stand on the contentious citizenship law, which for the first time makes religion test for citizenship in the country, the 45-year-old leader said: "I will be people's voice in the assembly."
Mr Gogoi had led a group of over 61 organisations to protest against the CAA in 2019. Several cases were filed against him across across Assam (Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Gaurisagar, Teok, Jorhat) after violent demonstrations. Of these, two cases (in Chandmari and Chabua) were taken over by the NIA.
Last month, he was cleared in the Chabua case. Today, he was cleared in the case filed in Chandmari.
NIA Special Judge Pranjal Das did not frame charges against Gogoi and his three associates - Dhairjya Konwar, Manas Konwar and Bitu Sonowal - in the Chandmari case, in which they were accused of having Maoist links.
During his time in jail, Mr Gogoi had contracted coronavirus, and and was shifted to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) where he also underwent treatment for anxiety, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had said.