As Arnab Goswami is released from jail following the Supreme Court granting him bail, a large gathering receives him and hoists him up, celebrating his release. Liberals take to social media to thank the apex court for protecting him from Maharashtra government’s “malicious and politically motivated” arrest. Some claimed that while they disagreed with Arnab, the latter’s right to make his opinion heard shouldn’t be attacked.
During the trial, Justice Chandrachud said, “If we as a Constitutional court do not lay down law and protect liberty, then who will?” And he is right, the Constitutional court must lay down the law to protect liberty, but the popular question here is whether this laying down of law is selective by nature. That is the criticism that many have thrown at the apex court in response to their judgement.
As we see the Constitutional right of an Assam-born journalist being protected, let us take the question of another Assam resident — Akhil Gogoi. He is a crusader against corruption, RTI activist, and had been a part of Anna Hazare-led India Against Corruption movement. He had left it since a few members decided to form a political party and that wasn’t Akhil’s intention. He also started the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti — a peasant organisation in Assam — in 2005. However, more recently he and his organisation had protested against the unpopular Citizenship Amendment Act.
Gogoi had been in and out of jail since December 2019, when he had organised an anti-CAA protest in Assam. Different police station across the state would file cases against him in connection with the protests and they would hand it over to the National Investigation Agency. The officers prefer that he be arrested under either the National Security Act or the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Addressing Arnab’s arrest, Assam’s Finance Minister Himant Biswas Sarma had said to media that the case against the Republic TV Editor has been encouraged by the drug mafia since the journalist was trying to expose them. Comparing the situation, Sarma added, “Arnab Goswami is a journalist. Akhil Gogoi is an activist. Arnab Goswami is exposing corruption; he is exposing drug mafia. How can we compare burning tyre with that of Arnab Goswami? There is no question of comparison between the two.”
While the Courts take their time to decide on a verdict, Gogoi had been in and out of jails, which has severely affected his health. At one point, the NIA court had to initiate a check-up to see if he was fit to stand trial. This seems to be very different from Arnab’s case. Arnab barely spent 10 days in jail. In fact, the bail petition in SC was the fastest in a while. It moved from the Sessions to Bombay HC to the apex court in barely 10 days. Akhil has been doing the rounds for almost a year and still, there is no end to the legal tunnel he is in.