GUWAHATI, July 22 - Senior Supreme Court advocate Upamanyu Hazarika today strongly criticised the arrest of Gauhati University student Dipjyoti Gogoi, terming it as an infringement of freedom of speech and personal liberty.
Hazarika also expressed his willingness to provide free legal assistance in such cases where law is being misused to suppress any kind of dissent.
�If Dipjyoti Gogoi has been arrested for forwarding a news report in social media then this spells extreme danger for personal liberty and freedom of speech and expression. When the State is facing a grave crisis due to floods and COVID-19, does a social media post by a university student pose the most dangerous threat to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal? When hundreds have died in floods for lack of assistance and support, should the scarce resources of the police and administration be deployed for arresting a university student at midnight?� Hazarika questioned.
The senior advocate alleged that the Assam Government�s publicity department dubbed the news post forwarded by Dipjyoti Gogoi as �fake� in haste.
Alleging that the State machinery cannot be misused for political witch-hunt, he further added that it was a breach of fundamental rights and the laws laid down by the Supreme Court on two counts.
�Firstly, in the case of Shreya Singhal in 2015 the Supreme Court had declared her arrest and registration of an offence for a social media post to be in breach of her fundamental rights and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 was set aside. Secondly, it is a settled law in multiple decisions and judgments of the Supreme Court that criticism of a leader may not amount even to a civil defamation, leave alone criminal charges,� he added.
He further added that the senior police officials and particularly the Advocate General of the State should have cautioned and advised the Chief Minister against such grossly arbitrary steps.
�To victimise those who are particularly vulnerable � especially students and those who belong to weaker communities is a clear strategy to quell all dissent by force. This sounds the death knell for democracy. I and my colleagues assure all those who are victims of such actions which infringe the freedom of speech and liberty, that we are ready and willing to provide free legal assistance to them,� he mentioned.