The pitch for a "robust legal framework" articulated by the intelligence bureau chief ESL Narasimhan is getting louder. India's top law enforcement officials this week demanded a strong federal law to deal with organised crime as well.
But India does not have a national law on organised crime. Maharashtra and Karnataka are the only two states to have legislation on this issue. Delhi Police—administered directly by the Union home ministry—filled the void in the Capital's legal framework by extending the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act to Delhi.
Fears that a law with teeth could be used to chew on the rights of people has ensured that the home ministry is reluctant to give similar powers to other states; allegations of misuse of Pota are too recent to be forgotten by the ruling coalition that made its repeal an electoral plank.
The CBI—that intends to flag the issue for the government with a paper demanding a law on the lines of MCOCA—says concerns for misuse at lower levels of the force could be addressed. "There can be a provision that makes written permission of senior police officers mandatory before registration of a case," said a senior CBI officer.
The CBI, however, is not the only one pushing for a central law. When bureau officials made a presentation at the three-day conference of Directors General of Police this week, there was unanimity in the security establishment on its need.
A federal law on organised crime would also fulfil Delhi's obligation under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
"Organised crimes, particularly some of its dimensions are not simple issues of law enforcement. They have the potential to seriously undermine stability and every existence of the state," said a senior police officer.
He said the new law should have inbuilt provisions for a strong witness protection programme, special courts and enhanced sentence and should provide legal backing for action against support structures of organised crime like financiers and their contacts in the police and government.
Investigators are also pushing for increasing the maximum period of police custody for the accused to 30 days and giving investigators six months instead of three months to file the chargesheet. "It is also important that there should not be any provision for anticipatory bail," CBI told the conference.
The security establishment has been worried at the deepening nexus between organised crime and terrorists and the inability of the local police to graduate to investigating the conspiracies that have national and international links rather than the immediate crime. On Saturday, Singh also alluded to the linkage between terror and organised crime like drug trafficking, gunrunning, counterfeit currency and money laundering and called it "a matter of extreme concern".
That the drug economy is estimated at Rs 2,167 crore is cited as evidence of the dangers that organised crime pose. So is the estimate of hawala transactions in 2004 running into Rs 3,250 crore in 2004; the disturbing aspect of hawala transactions is the use of this channel by terrorists, drug traffickers and anti-national elements.
And Mumbai—where organised crime took its roots after independence due to prohibition and has since closely associated with the underworld—is not the only place where organised gangs pose a threat. "There are at least eight states that have this problem," said a senior police officer. The presence of organised crime has been detected in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and to some extent Jammu and Kashmir.
Besides a nodal agency at the centre that should be empowered to take on cases with wide ramifications, the CBI officer said: "To begin with, all these states should also designate a nodal agency mandated to get to the bottom of conspiracies and bust organised gangs."
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