After failing to get Presidential nod for its anti-terror bill in three previous attempts , the Gujarat government has again gone ahead and passed Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC) Bill in a new form in the Assembly . The new bill still retains some of the controversial provisions.
State government led by CM Anandiben Patel introduced the bill and it was passed by a majority vote. Congress strongly opposed the bill. Junior home minister Rajni Patel called the bill need of the hour. Congress said that the bill is the same as before and only nomenclature has been changed.
The GUJCOC bill, which is on the lines of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), was rejected in 2004 and 2008 by the then President AJP Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil respectively who had suggested some amendments in the provisions related to telephone interception and confession made before police officer being considered as evidence in court. After its passage for the third time in the state assembly, the bill is still pending for clearance from the President.
One such contentious provision is the admissibility of evidence collected through intercepted calls of the accused. This provision empowers the police to intercept calls and admit it as evidence in the court. Justifying the provision, the ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ in the bill states that it is necessary in the contemporary day where organised criminal syndicates make extensive use of wire and oral communication.
It says that the interception of such communication to obtain evidence is inevitable and an indispensable aid for the law enforcement. The statement provides a detailed justification on the issue by adding that the existing laws are inadequate to curb the menace of organised crimes. The Bill will be tabled for discussion and approval of the house on March 31, the last day of ongoing Budget session.
It further says, “It is therefore, considered necessary to enact a special law with stringent provisions, including the power to intercept wire, electronic or oral communication.” As per the clause-14 of the bill, evidence collected through ‘interception of wire, electronic or oral communication… shall be admissible as evidence against the accused in the court’. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam had in 2004 objected over the particular clause-14 and returned the bill to the government led by the then chief minister Narendra Modi, asking it to remove the clause.
Later in 2008, the bill was passed after deleting the clause related to interception of communication, as per the suggestion of Kalam. However, President Pratibha Patil rejected it and had suggested some more amendments. One of them was to eliminate the provision which allows confession made before a police officer, be admitted in the court as evidence.
However, ignoring the suggestion, the state government had once again passed the bill in 2009 for the third time and sent it for President’s approval. The bill is still pending with the President. Now, the government has once again introduced the revised version, which will be tabled for discussion and approval of the house on March 31, the last day of ongoing Budget session.
In the new bill, the government has retained the provision related to confession made before a police officer. It is proposed that the officer should be of Superintendent of Police (SP) rank or above. As per the clause-16, “A confession made by a person before a police officer not below the rank of SP.. shall be admissible in the trial of such accused, co-accused, abettor or conspirator for an offence under the provisions of this Act.”