Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is back in controversy for ‘trivializing’ firebrand opposition legislator Akhil Gogoi as a ‘psychiatric patient’ in the Assam Legislative Assembly.

Replying to a discussion on the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s address, Sarma on Monday dismissed a request to allow Raijor Dal MLA Akhil Gogoi to attend the session of the Assam Legislative Assembly.

Sarma told in the Assembly that Akhil Gogoi is a psychiatric patient, not in a sound mental state, and is getting treated for his mental disease at the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH).

Bolstered with the success of bagging the hot seat in the corridors of power, Sarma, a doctorate in Political Science from Gauhati University, probably forgot that dignity and decorum are foundational norms of parliamentary democracy.

These foundational norms in state assemblies and the parliament have always been considered ‘sacrosanct’ and the elected representatives are under the oath to preserve, protect and defend the norms in a democracy like India.

After all, attrition of dignity and decorum will lead to the erosion of the institutions of parliamentary democracy.

It is surprising as to how chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also a graduate in law; forget that patients in India enjoy a certain amount of protection and privacy in the form of Charters of Patients’ Rights.

While Article 21 clearly talks about the protection of personal liberty, the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002 ensures that physicians, healthcare providers, and the state cannot divulge details of ailment or diagnosis without the consent of the patient.

In addition to Article 21 and the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002, there are several other legal provisions related to patients’ rights under the Consumer Protection Act 1986, Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940 and the Clinical Establishment Act 2010.

It is definitely ‘unethical’ to speak in public about the mental illness of someone because of the social stigma connected with insanity or lunacy.

The magnitude of the ‘unethical slur’ has turned even bigger because it has been stated by the chief minister of Assam against a legislator of the opposition bench.

It is definite that the firebrand RTI activist and peasants’ leader Akhil Gogoi is under tremendous political pressure because he has been behind the bars for the last 17 months.

In December 2019, he was arrested for his alleged role in violent anti-CAA protests across the state. Subsequently, the case was taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), India’s counter-terrorism task force.

During the first wave of the Covid19 pandemic, Akhil Gogoi had tested positive and had to be hospitalized. Since then, he has been in the Guwahati Medical College and Hospital.

Despite the legal challenges and political pressure, Akhil Gogoi floated Raijor Dal (the Peoples’ Party) from the jail, contested election, and defeated BJP’s Surabhi Rajkonwari at Sibsagar in Upper Assam.

Akhil Gogoi’s electoral victory has already set a milestone in Assam’s political history. He is the first Assamese to win an election from jail, and that too, without any physical campaigning.

The state government has already been caught on the wrong foot after Akhil Gogoi was ferried in a ramshackle bus on May 21 from the hospital to the Assam legislative Assembly to take the oath as a legislator.

Videos of Akhil Gogoi being butted in by the security personnel inside the Assam Legislative Assembly premises went viral, and people, cutting across political affiliations criticized the government for the highhandedness.

In fact, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s comment on Akhil Gogoi’s mental health was in response to Congress legislator Bharat Chandra Narah’s request to the newly-elected Speaker Biswajeet Daimary to allow the jailed legislator to attend the sessions of the three-day inaugural session.

Sarma argued that the Assam Legislative Assembly cannot allow a ‘psychiatric patient’ to attend the sessions because of Covid Protocol, and alleged that Akhil Gogoi, on the first day, was seen hopping from one place to another, talking to everyone.

Interestingly, Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that doctors in GMCH informed him that Akhil Gogoi is a ‘psychiatric patient’, and needs medical care.

Isn’t it a little surprising? Under what provisions of law did the doctors share details of Akhil Gogoi’s ailment to the chief minister of Assam?

Didn’t the doctors violate the provisions of law by divulging details of Akhil Gogoi’s ailments to the chief minister?

In addition to the laws on privacy of patients, did the doctors forget that they are also under the Hippocratic Oath?

The doctors did not take Akhil Gogoi’s consent to share details about his ailment with the chief minister.

In response to Himanta Biswa Sarma’s comments, Akhil Gogoi said it was a case of ‘disrespect’ of the Assam Legislative Assembly, and a ‘cheap statement’.

Gogoi threatened to move a privilege motion against the CM’s statement in the future in the Assam Legislative Assembly.

Now, the biggest question is — is Akhil Gogoi really a ‘psychiatric patient’? Or, is Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma all out to establish that he is a ‘psychiatric patient’ to keep him at bay?

Known to be ‘arch rivals’ since Cotton College days, both Himanta Biswa Sarma and Akhil Gogoi were often engaged in a war of words during the last few years. The firebrand RTI activist has always been vociferous against Sarma and had accused him of rampant corruption.

Sarma knows it well that if Akhil Gogoi is allowed to attend regular sessions of the Assam Legislative Assembly, he will continue to be vociferous against the incumbent government, and may make lives difficult for some of his ministers.

Akhil Gogoi has the expertise to dig out government documents, and may stage storms during the Question Hours and other businesses in the assembly.

And if it is proved that Akhil Gogoi is a ‘psychiatric patient’, his entry will be banned in the Assam Legislative Assembly, and with the presence of a ‘weak opposition’, the treasury bench would manage the smooth transition of bills and other businesses.

Meanwhile, four activists belonging to different affiliate organizations or Akhil Gogoi’s Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) were apprehended by police during midnight raids on Monday in Sivasagar district in upper Assam.

Sources said Chatra Mukti Sangram Samiti (CMSS) leader Manas Konwar, Asom Yuba Chatra Sanmilan president Jintu Mech, Raijor Dal leader Padmakant Das and Bir Lachit Sena leader Chitu Baruh were arrested last night.

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Anirban Roy

Anirban Roy is Editor-in-Chief of Northeast Now. He can be reached at: