3/2/2016 244 Security Issues | Internal Security | View Recent Current Affairs
- On March 31, 2015, the Gujarat Assembly passed the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill (GCTOC) with a view to curbing “organised crime”. It is noticed that the organised criminal syndicates make a common cause with terrorist gangs and foster macro terrorism which extends beyond the national boundaries.
- In September 2015, the Home Ministry cleared the GCTOC Bill and sent it to Pranab Mukherjee for his assent, but on January 28, the President sent it back to the Union Home Ministry seeking clarifications on some of the provisions in the Bill.
- Now, Home Ministry will write to the state government conveying the clarifications the President has sought. Once it hears from the state government, it will provide additional inputs to the President.
- The Ministry has informed the President that it will submit a re-worked Bill for his approval.
What is the problem with this Bill?
- One of the most controversial provisions in the Bill is the interception of oral, wire or electronic conversations and their admissibility as evidence in a court of law.
- The recent cases of sedition slapped on leaders of the Patidar quota stir, including Hardik Patel, are based heavily on telephonic conversations among the accused. Under the Indian Telegraph Act, such interceptions are admissible as evidence before the court but it is considered a “corroborative” piece of evidence, not a conclusive piece of evidence.
- The bill extends the period of investigation from the centrally stipulated 90-180 days. Not only that, anyone accused of an offense punishable under this act will not be released on bail or on his own bond.
- The bill has another important and controversial provision: that a statement made before a police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police, is admissible as evidence in court. Civil rights organisations have been opposing this provision, calling it a violation of the fundamental rights of an accused.
- One objection is with regard to Section 25 of the Bill that makes the government immune from any legal action for “anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act.
- The Gujarat Bill borrows heavily from its parallel in Maharashtra, the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999, with the difference that, in the latter, there is no reference to terrorism. The Dharmadhikari Committee, which was appointed by the Maharashtra government to go into the working of MCOCA, found no major shortcomings or criticism that would detract from the merits of the Act.
- Organised crime is a big challenge in the state and that there is likelihood of the smugglers joining hands with terrorists point more to the contradictions in the state’s social and economic structures than to external threats.
- India’s repeated experiments with anti-terrorism laws have been, by and large, unsuccessful. The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985, a law considered as draconian as the Rowlatt Act of the colonial era, and its latter-day version, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2003, had been allowed to lapse after it was found that they were prone to persistent misuse. However, with the substantive amendments made to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 2012, the country does have an effective law to curb modern-day terrorism.