The draft Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Act (UPCOCA) was approved at a meeting of the state Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in Lucknow on Wednesday. The bill is expected to be introduced in the Winter Session of the state legislature, which commences on Thursday.
The law has been modelled on the the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) to combat land mafia, mining mafia and organised crimes in the state.
The bill mandates the constitution of an Organised Crime Control Authority under the Principal Secretary (Home). District magistrates will head these bodies at the district-level. It also provides for powers to police to confiscate the property of criminals found guilty. The cases under the law will be heard by a special court.
The Tribune reported that the bill covers crimes like kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, manufacturing/sale of illicit liquor, acquiring contracts using muscle power, organised exploitation of forest produce, wildlife trade, fake medicines, grabbing government and private properties, and rangdari (extortion). Further, like in the MCOCA, the Uttar Pradesh law will allow the state to intercept wire, electronic or oral communications and present them before a court as evidence against the accused, according to a report in The Telegraph. There will also been an "appealing authority" constituted under the chairmanship of a retired high court judge to hear cases decided by the special courts.
The punishments envisaged in the law vary from a minimum of three years to capital punishment, said DNA. It also provides a fine of Rs 5 to 25 lakhs and extends the period of filing chargesheet from 90 days to 180 days. The Hindu reported that state security would also be withdrawn from persons booked under the the law. The law will add to the already existing Gangsters Act, which seeks to keep a check on crime syndicates.
A similar law was passed by the Uttar Pradesh government in 2007-08 when Mayawati was chief minister but had to be withdrawn after then President Pratibha Patil refused to give assent for the law.
Parallels with MCOCA
The Telegraph report quoted Srikant Sharma, the Uttar Pradesh energy minister, as saying, "We have formulated the UPCOCA bill after a thorough study of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act and similar laws in Karnataka and Gujarat."
The inspiration from MCOCA is quite clear in the Uttar Pradesh law. Death penalty is a common punishment in both laws as is the presence of special courts to try cases. The permission to intercept wire, electronic or oral communication too is a feature in both laws.
Further, the provision regarding forfeiture of property which has been trumpeted by the government as one of the salient features of the Uttar Pradesh law is present in the Maharashtra law as well.
Opposition attacks bill
Opposition parties have claimed that the bill has the potential to be misused against politicians and student leaders, and there are already enough laws to deal with organised crime in the state, according to The Indian Express. They have said that they will oppose the bill whenever it is table in the house.
Samajwadi Party spokesman Rajendra Chaudhray told The Pioneer said that his party would oppose the law inside and outside the legislature. “This law is meant to target Muslims. The Samajwadi Party will not allow this,” he said. Since the ruling BJP does not have a majority in the Upper House, it would be a struggle for the government to get the law passed in the Vidhan Parishad.
The government has asserted that checks are in place to prevent the misuse of the bill, said The Indian Express report. It said that the property can only be attached with court permission and cases can be registered only once a two-member committee comprising the Divisional Commissioner and a DIG-rank officer gives its approval. Even a chargesheet can only be submitted once approval is taken from the zonal Inspector General of Police concerned.
The bill was met with approval by former DGP Prakash Singh who told Hindustan Times that it is necessary as there is no law in the state to deal with organised crime. Since MCOCA was enacted in 1999 many states including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and New Delhi have brought similar laws.
'Match bullets with bullets'
It had earlier been reported by The Times of India that the Yogi government could bring about such a law following a sudden rise in crime after the elections. After this, the chief minister had given free rein to the police while pursuing hardcore criminals. "Goli ka jawab goli se dena hoga (We have to match bullets with bullets)," he has said repeatedly to emphasis his resolve to end organised crime.
The report also quoted a state official who said, "Uttar Pradesh is the second state after Maharashtra to have an exclusive law against organised crime. And it could become possible because of the CM's relentless efforts and strong resolve to fight against criminals."
With inputs from agencies
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Updated Date: Dec 14, 2017 13:10:20 IST