Uttar Pradesh bill UPCOCB to curb organised crime, allows seizure of properties during probe
A senior state government official said the deliberation over a stringent law to check organized crime had started during the tenure of the BJP government under Kalyan Singh (September 1997- November 1999).india Updated: Dec 13, 2017 21:27 IST
The Uttar Pradesh government approved on Wednesday a draft bill for a stringent law against organised crimes such as kidnapping for ransom, land mafia and illegal mining in the state where deteriorating law and order had been an election issue.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath presided over a Cabinet meeting that cleared the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Bill (UPCOCB), which has borrowed several features from the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).
“Organised crime has been defined in the bill. Kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, manufacturing illicit liquor and its sale, acquiring contracts on the basis of muscle power, organised exploitation of forest produce, trade in wildlife, fake medicines, grabbing of government and private properties, and rangdari (extortion) will come under the ambit of the new law,” said government spokesperson and power minister Srikant Sharma.
The bill proposes that the government can take over properties amassed through organised crime, with the court’s permission during investigation, Sharma said. If the suspect is convicted, the government will confiscate the property.
The government is pushing to pass the bill in the assembly’s winter session, beginning Thursday. It will be then sent to the Union government for the President’s approval.
The bill reflects the BJP government’s promise to bring down the state’s crime rate. Before it came to power this March with a three-fourths majority, the BJP said during its poll campaign the state’s law and order has collapsed in five years of Samajwadi Party (SP) rule and pledged to turn around the situation.
“The rule of law is the top priority of the government and for this it is essential that those indulging in mafia and goonda activities, and disturbing peace in society, are identified and a special drive is launched against them ... The bill is being brought with this purpose in mind,” minister Sharma said.
The UPCOCB was pending for 10 years. In 2007, when the BSP came to power with Mayawati as chief minister, a strict law was proposed “to control contract killers, kidnappers, gun-toting contractors, hawala traders, manufacturers of spurious drugs and liquor, the mafia and hardened criminals operating as organised syndicate”.
The assembly passed the bill and it was sent for the presidential assent, but the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre opposed the law fearing its misuse.
The Adityanath government tried to allay such fears. The new draft of the proposed legislation, prepared in consultation with the law department to check organised and white-collar crime, says no case can be registered without the prior approval of a two-member committee.
The panel comprises the divisional commissioner and DIG of police. Besides, prior approval of the zonal inspector general of police will be required to file a charge sheet after investigation.
Special courts will be constituted for hearing cases lodged under the proposed law and a state-level organised crime control authority has been planned to monitor gangs involved in organised crime.
There is also a provision to form district-level authorities, which will recommend cases to the state-level authority after investigation, Sharma said.
Security cover will be provided to those appearing as witness against criminals. People getting government protection will forfeit their security if they are found involved in organised crime.
Opposition parties criticised the government’s decision. Leader of the Opposition, Ram Govind Chaudhary, said: “We will oppose the bill. It can be misused politically. There are a number of other laws to check crime. Such measures will not be of any help.”
Minister Sharma clarified that there are 28 provisions in the bill that aren’t present in the gangsters act.
Former DGP Prakash Singh welcomed the bill, saying it is necessary as there is no law in the state to deal with organised crime.
Since MCOCA was enacted in 1999 many states such Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and New Delhi have brought similar laws.
Uttar Pradesh registered 282,171 crimes under the Indian Penal Code in 2016, the highest in the country, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). There are no separate data for organised crime.
The BJP government had announced a crackdown on criminal gangs.
“Police have killed around 30 criminals in encounters in various districts. The UPCOCB will assist the state government in breaking the criminal-politician-contractor-bureaucrat nexus,” said a senior police officer, who didn’t wish to be identified.
(with inputs from Rajesh Singh)