Bill allows detention for 2 months, legal experts flag concern
The Madhya Pradesh government will introduce a draft legislation to tackle organised crime in the upcoming winter session of the legislative assembly, the state’s home minister Narottam Mishra said.
The state cabinet will soon approve the Madhya Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities Prevention Bill 2021 so that is can tabled in the assembly, which will be in session from December 20 to 24, Mishtra told HT.
Madhya Pradesh, ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), will be the second state after Uttar Pradesh to enact a law to weed out local mafias. The state cabinet on Thursday also approved a draft legislation to prevent damage to public and private property.
The proposed gangster law will enable authorities to detain suspected criminals for up to two months, a home department official said. The law will be used against organized criminals, including mining mafia, land mafia, illicit liquor sellers, fake medicine sellers, human trafficking gangs, drugs peddlers, food adulterators, and illegal arms manufacturers, among others.
“Police will invoke the law in all the organized crimes that have more than two accused,” the official said on condition of anonymity. “The law will empower district collectors to inquire the matter of assets of the accused and, if it is found to be disproportionate, they will have a right to seize it.”
The cases under the proposed law will be heard in a special court so that hearings could be completed in a timely manner. There will also be provisions for the safety and security of eyewitnesses.
“The draft is being discussed and will be formalized soon,” home department additional chief secretary Rajesh Rajora said.
“This was not the first time when the provision of police remand for up to two months is going to be introduced,” retired police officer Shailendra Shrivastava said. “Earlier, it was introduced under the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).”
“It is a necessary provision because it is tough for police to interrogate hardcore criminals,” the former Indian Police Service officer said. “As of now, there is a provision of maximum remand of 15 days, but that is not enough to complete interrogation.”
However, legal experts and human rights activists fear that the proposed law can be misused by the state government.
“What is the definition of a gangster and who will decide who is a gangster or not?” asked former advocate general Ravi Nandan Singh. “There is a possibility that the act can be misused and stringent provisions like in POTA and TADA will definitely upset the people of Madhya Pradesh.”
“The Madhya Pradesh government is copying Uttar Pradesh in every law, but they should understand that crime in MP is different from UP,” human rights activist M Seema said. “I don’t know why the government needs an extra law to control crime. They should reinforce existing laws to stop mafias because these laws only violate human rights, as we have seen in TADA and POTA. To keep a person in police custody just on the basis of suspicion that he is part of a mafia will surely violate human rights.”
The proposed legislation is nothing but a copy of the law effective in Uttar Pradesh, the opposition said.
“This act will prove the failure of the BJP-led state government in maintaining law and order in MP. BJP is leading the state and they allowed mafias to grow to such extent that now the government needs a separate law to deal with them,” said PC Sharma, state lawmaker from the Congress party.
The law will ensure peace and terrorise antisocial elements, BJP maintains.
“This law is against antisocial elements and the mafias to maintain peace and harmony in the state and to save the lives of people,” BJP spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said. “Opposition leaders have made a habit to oppose everything without understanding the consequences, and that’s why the Congress party is losing trust among the people.”