What are the features of the recently approved Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, 2019 ? How is it different from from The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999 on which it is based ?
The President of India gave his assent to the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, an anti-terror legislation passed by Gujarat in 2015. It is draws features from the The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), 1999.
Features of GCTOC –
- Terrorist act definition – includes an act committed with the intention to disturb law and order or public order or threaten the unity, integrity and security of the State.
- Economic offences under GCTOC include Ponzi schemes, multi-level marketing schemes, and organised betting.
- The act also includes extortion, land grabbing, contract killings, cybercrimes, and human trafficking.
- Provision of special court and appointment of special public prosecutors.
- Properties acquired through organised crime can be attached and Transfer of properties can be cancelled.
- Confessions made before a police officer to be considered as evidence.
- Investigating agencies can intercept telephonic conversations and submit them as legitimate evidence in court, however telephonic conversation interception requires clearance at the additional chief secretary level.
- Provides 180 days time for authorities to file a charge sheet instead of the usual 90 days and proposes stricter conditions for bail.
Advantages of the Bill –
- Increased safety and security of the Gujarat region which is a coastal state and shares an international border with Pakistan
- Enhanced power to police officials to boost security of the state.
- Help to control cybercrime and narco-terrorism fuelled by cross-border terrorist outfits.
Difference from MCOCA –
- Intercepting communication –
Five sections in MCOCA deal with interception of communication. The law mentions a 60 day period for interception with further extension requiring approval form not below the rank of Secretary to the government or in urgent cases, Additional DGP rank officer.
The Gujarat law on the other hand does not mention the procedure for intercepting communication and admits the communication whether wire, electronic or oral as evidence under ‘any other law’, which has not been defined in the Act.
- Reporting provision –
GCTOC has no provision of accounting for interception, numbers of applications approved/rejected, prosecutions launched on the basis of such interception in an annual report as mandated in MCOCA. The analysis of this of the utility of interceptions are required to be submitted to the Maharashtra Assembly within three months of the end of the calendar year.
- Definition of terrorist act –
The GCTOC’s definition of “terrorist act” is similar to the repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002, though it includes “an act committed with the intention to disturb public order”, thus widening its definiton to describe agaitation as an act of terrorism.
India’s central anti-terror law has The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, does not allow an agitation to be called ‘terrorism’, and is instead covered under IPC sections which is not effective enough for stringent punishment.
The bill has been mired in controversy due interception of telephonic conversations as evidence which is violative of the Right to Privacy (Article 21), extension of filing charge sheet from 90 days to 180 days and a confession made before police officers being considered as evidence which is violative of the fundamental rights of an accused (Article 20).