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Why UP does not need a special law to fight organised crime

The provisions of the existing laws, especially the IPC, CrPC and Evidence Act, provide sufficient powers to the police. Strict enforcement of the existing laws is the solution

opinion Updated: Aug 16, 2017 17:44 IST
Let us hope that the UP government will not go ahead with UPCOCA and instead provide better governance and effective policing to deal with law and order (Representative Photo)(Shankar Shukla/HT)

Does any State need a special law to deal with crimes committed by organised groups? This is a question which is very difficult to answer. Undoubtedly, the crime graph has shown a dramatic upward rise in the recent past across India. Reasons like poverty, social structures, failure of the agricultural sector coupled with the inability of the nation to create job opportunities for millions of teeming young men and women, the current nature and style of politics, the intense interference with the police force (from recruitment to postings) and the extremely slow pace of the judiciary to deal with criminal cases are responsible. India today has a population of 1.3 billion people and neither the size of the police force nor that of the judiciary can keep pace with the need of providing sufficient manpower and resources to both.

Uttar Pradesh is the largest state in India in terms of population and economically it is comparatively backward. Opportunities for jobs in agricultural and non-agricultural sectors are few and far between. Add to these woes the emergence of a nexus between political parties and criminals. A large number of politicians, MLAs and MPs across India, and especially in UP, are facing criminal charges and have criminal antecedents. The emergence of regional parties in UP has further complicated the situation.

So, the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act (UPCOCA), proposed by the UP government is no solution to deal with the situation. The provisions of the existing laws, especially the IPC, CrPC and the Evidence Act, provide sufficient powers to the police. The enforcement of the existing laws is the solution. The emergence of criminals on a large scale in UP is a reflection of poor governance and even poorer policing.

The government under the new chief minister can perhaps prove that with better governance and policing, the law and order situation can be effectively dealt with. UP stands apart from Maharashtra, where the existence of dangerous and organised criminal groups is a reality. But even with The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), National Crime Records Bureau statistics show that the number of crimes increased from 603,408 in 2000 to 828,010 in 2015.

Special laws like MCOCA are generally prone to abuse by the police and give them reason to hide their failures in effectively implementing ordinary laws. While its provisions have been held to be constitutionally valid, there is no doubt that these provisions are misused quite regularly. The citizen’s constitutional and fundamental rights are seriously eroded on account of such abuse. In the garb of such laws, political rivals and many a times ordinary citizens who espouse the cause of the underprivileged and the vulnerable sections of the society are targeted.

So a balance is needed between security needs and individual rights.

If UP is really serious it can bring a special law not to deal with so-called organised crime, but crimes against women, Dalits and Muslims. Mob lynchings need to be curbed with an iron hand.

One must remember that many a times such organised gangs are born out of State policies. It is well known that in the United States, the mafia and Al Capone were products of the prohibition policy in the 1920s. In India, for the first 50 years, major criminal gangs indulging in smuggling were born on account of thoughtless policies regulating import and export. Currently, the influx of narcotics, which are seriously destroying a whole generation of young Indians, are being smuggled in despite the presence of paramilitary forces on the western border, the existence of coast guards, intelligence agencies and police forces. A recent haul off the coast of Gujarat shows the size of the trade and the profits which must be shared amongst various stake holders. Liberalising mild drugs for use is being encouraged in many countries to combat it.

India is a democracy but its citizens are overly governed. This does not augur well for the future. Far from dealing with the crying need of reducing the laws, the State wants to bring more laws. Perhaps the effort is to do away with the well-known principles of criminal jurisprudence, ‘Presumed Innocence’ and ‘Burden of Proof’, which clearly demand that every accused is innocent till found guilty and that the burden to prove that he/she is guilty, rests on the prosecution. Let us hope that the popular government of UP will not go ahead with UPCOCA and instead provide better governance and effective policing to deal with law and order. One can only be reminded of the sobering words of the full bench of the Supreme Court of Israel, a country often cited for justifying stringent laws and actions, that:“at times democracy fights with one hand tied behind her back. Despite that, democracy has the upper hand, since preserving the rule of law and recognition of individual liberties constitute an important component of her security stance.”

Dushyant Dave is senior advocate and former president, Supreme Court Bar Association

The views expressed are personal

(Counterpoint: Prakash Singh on why UP needs a special law to fight organised crime)

First Published: Aug 16, 2017 16:08 IST