Fearing opposition from states, particularly those ruled by non-Congress parties, the Centre has sought about three months from the Supreme Court to spell out its stand on the suggestion to categorise certain offences relating to international terrorism and organised crimes as "federal crimes" to be handled exclusively by the CBI.
The issue involved "important constitutional implications, particularly having regard to Centre-States relations and is being considered by the Central Government in consultation with concerned ministries," it said in an affidavit.
The Centre's stand is at variance with that of the National Human Rights Commission, which whole-heartedly supported the idea.
Taking note of the challenges posed by terrorism, drug trafficking and other organised crimes having national and international ramifications, the NHRC said that certain offences should be categorised as "federal crimes" to be handled by only a central agency.
"There is…an acute need to identify certain offences as federal crimes, the need arising from the stark reality of the national and international ramifications and implications of these crimes. It is also desirable that the task of their investigation should be entrusted to one central agency," the NHRC said in its affidavit.
"We are indeed living in a time of rapid change marked by globalisation of not only the economy but also the crime world. The forms of crime their contours and the modus operandi are undergoing a sea change…," it noted.
These affidavits have been filed in response to the court's September 22, 2006 order on police reforms when it had given four months to the Centre and NHRC to respond to petitioner former UP DGP Prakash Singh's suggestion in this regard.
Singh had suggested that cases of international terrorism and organised crimes like drug trafficking, money laundering and smuggling of weapons be treated as measures taken for the 'defence of India' and as 'internal security measures' under Article 355 of the Constitution.
His counsel Prashant Bhushan had submitted that such cases involving international or inter-state ramifications should be entrusted only to the CBI.
But the Centre pointed out that 'police' figured in the State List of the Constitution of India and "the matter will require further consultation with the State Governments."
Maintaining that the matter was of "great importance", the Centre said it was essential to take a comprehensive view and examine the proposals "carefully having regard to issues relating to national security, effective law and order enforcement and compliance with constitutional law and extant statutes both Central and State."
On the contrary, the NHRC went to the extent of listing about 65 offences under 15 Acts to be made "federal crimes".
The Commission said, "the CBI which is already investigating some such cases after obtaining the concurrence of the State Governments, may be entrusted with the responsibility of investigating federal crimes whenever the gravity…of the offence so demands".
Important offences under IPC sought to be made "federal crimes" by the NHRC include waging war against the State (Section 121), Counterfeiting of Indian coin or government stamp (Sections 232 & 255), kidnapping for ransom and kidnapping or abduction with intention to murder (Sections 364A & 364).
Besides, selling and buying minors for prostitution (Sections 372 & 273) and offences relating to extortion (Sections 384 to 389 of IPC) have also been suggested to be included in the possible list of "federal crimes".
Organised crime as defined in the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 having inter-stated or international ramification too should be treated as "federal crime", the NHRC said.
It suggested that selective offences under NDPS, Act, 1985, Information Technology Act, 2000, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, Explosives Act, 1884, Explosives Substances Act, 1908, Arms Act, 1959, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Official Secrets Act, 1923, Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, Anti-Hijacking Act, 1982, Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1961, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act, 1976 also be made "federal crimes".
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