The application of the stringent legislation, Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), will no longer be restricted to organised crimes involving financial gains or unjustified economic advantages.
This landmark ruling is likely to strengthen the prosecution side in important cases such as the 2008 Malegaon blast case and the Shahid Azmi murder case.
Section 2(e) of the MCOCA defines organised crime as any 'continuing unlawful activity, with the objective of gaining pecuniary benefits or gaining undue economic or other advantage'.
On Friday, a full bench of the Bombay high court comprising chief justice Mohit Shah, justice Bhushan Gavai and justice Roshan Dalvi, while upholding the view expressed by a division bench in April, contended that the words 'other advantages' will not mean the same as 'pecuniary gains or undue economic advantages'.
"The purpose behind enacting MCOCA was to curb the activities of organised crime syndicates or gangs," the bench observed before adding, "The preamble does not lead to any narrower meaning that MCOCA has been enacted only for the purpose of curbing activities which involve pecuniary gains or undue economic advantages."
"If narrower meaning is accepted, it will frustrate the object rather than curbing the mischief sought to cured by the MCOCA [organised crime]," it added. In April, while hearing an appeal filed by state government against a trial court revoking MCOCA provisions in advocate Shahid Azmi's murder, the division bench had contended that the words 'other advantages' could not be restricted to mean the same as 'pecuniary gains or undue economic advantages', and should be interpreted differently to widen the scope of the stringent legislation.
In 2007, a division bench of HC had held that 'other advantages' meant the same as 'pecuniary gains or undue economic advantages' and another division bench had reaffirmed the decision two years later.