Criminal

MCOCA vs UAPA

Supreme Court while considering the constitutionality of MCOCA insofar as it dealt with insurgency on the ground of want of legislative competence and repugnancy with UAPA a subsequent central enactment. While upholding the constitutionality of MCOCA the Court observed as under in paras 40 to 44, 54, 55, 61, 62 and 63 :-

Now that we have examined under what circumstances a State Law can be said to be encroaching upon the law making powers of the Central Government, we may proceed to evaluate the current issue on merits. Let us once again examine the provision at the core of this matter:

2(1)(e) organized crime means any continuing unlawful activity by an individual, singly or jointly, either as a member of an organized crime syndicate or on behalf of such syndicate, by use of violence or threat of violence or intimidation or coercion, or other unlawful means, with the objective of gaining pecuniary benefits, or gaining undue economic or other advantage for himself or any person or promoting insurgency; After examining this provision at length, we have come to the conclusion that the definition of organized crime contained in Section 2(1)(e) of the MCOCA makes it clear that the phrase promoting insurgency is used to denote a possible driving force for organized crime. It is evident that the MCOCA does not punish insurgency per se, but punishes those who are guilty of running a crime organization, one of the motives of which may be the promotion of insurgency. We may also examine the Statement of Objects and Reasons to support the conclusion arrived at by us.

The relevant portion of the Statement of Objects and Reasons is extracted herein below :-

  1. Organized crime has been for quite some years now come up as a very serious threat to our society. It knows no national boundaries and is fueled by illegal wealth generated by contract, killing, extortion, smuggling in contrabands, illegal trade in narcotics kidnappings for ransom, collection of protection money and money laundering, etc. The illegal wealth and black money generated by the organized crime being very huge, it has had serious adverse effect on our economy. It was seen that the organised criminal syndicates made a common cause with terrorist gangs and foster narco-terrorism which extend beyond the national boundaries. There was reason to believe that organised criminal gangs have been operating in the State and thus, there was immediate need to curb their activities…
  2. The existing legal framework i. e. the penal and procedural laws and the adjudicatory system are found to be rather inadequate to curb or control the menace of organized crime. Government has, therefore, decided to enact a special law with stringent and deterrent provisions including in certain circumstances power to intercept wire, electronic or oral communication to control the menace of organized crime.

We find merit in the contention that the MCOCA, in any way, deals with punishing insurgency directly. We are of the considered view that the legislation only deals with insurgency indirectly only to bolster the definition of organized crime.

However, even if it be assumed that insurgency has a larger role to play than pointed out by us above in the MCOCA, we are of the considered view that the term promoting insurgency as contemplated u/s 2(1)(e) of the MCOCA comes with the concept of public order. From the ratio of the judgments on the point of public order referred to by us earlier, it is clear that anything that affects public peace or tranquility within the State or the Province would also affect public order and the State Legislature is empowered to enact laws aimed at containing or preventing acts which tend to or actually affect public order. Even if the said part of the MCOCA incidentally encroaches upon a field under Entry 1 of the Union list, the same cannot be held to be ultra virus in view of the doctrine of pith and substance as in essence the said part relates to maintenance of Public Order which is essentially a State subject and only incidentally trenches upon a matter falling under the Union List.

Therefore, we are of the  view that it is within the legislative competence of the State of Maharashtra to enact such a provision under Entries 1 and 2 of List II read with Entries 1, 2 and 12 of List III of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. Repugnance with Central Statute.

(44) This brings us to the second ground of challenge i. e. the part of Section 2(1)(e) of the MCOCA, so far 65 BA 333-2011 as it covers case of insurgency, is repugnant and has become void by the enactment of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2004, amending the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the MCOCA, inter alia, states that organized crime has for quite some years now come up as a very serious threat to our society and there is reason to believe that organized criminal gangs are operating in the State and thus there is immediate need to curb their activities. The Statement of Objects and Reasons in relevant part, reads as under :

Organised crime has for quite some years now come up as a very serious threat to our society. It knows no national boundaries and is fuelled by illegal wealth generated by contract killings, extortion, smuggling in contrabands, illegal trade in narcotics, kidnappings for ransom, collection of protection money and money laundering, etc. The illegal wealth and black money generated by the organized crime is very huge and has serious adverse effect on our economy. It is seen that the organized criminal syndicates make a common cause with terrorist gangs and foster narco-terrorism which extend beyond the national boundaries. There is reason to believe that organized criminal gangs are operating in the State and thus, there is immediate need to curb their activities. It is also noticed that the organized criminals make extensive use of wire and oral communications in their criminal activities. The interception of such communications to obtain evidence of the commission of crimes or to prevent their commission is an indispensable aid to law enforcement and the administration of justice.

The existing legal framework i. e. the penal and procedural laws and the adjudicatory system are found to be rather inadequate to curb or control the menace of organized crime. Government has, therefore, decided to enact a special law with stringent and deterrent provisions including in certain circumstances power to intercept wire, electronic or oral communication to control the menace of the organized crime. After enacting the MCOCA, assent of the President was also obtained which was received on 24.04.1999. Section 2 of the MCOCA is the interpretation clause. Clause (d) of sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the MCOCA, defines the expression continuing unlawful activity to mean an activity prohibited by law for the time being in force, which is a cognizable offence punishable with imprisonment of three years or more, undertaken either singly or jointly, as a member of an organized crime syndicate or on behalf of such syndicate in respect of which more than one charge- sheets have been filed before a competent court within the preceding period of ten years and that court has taken cognizance of such offence. Clause (e) (extracted earlier hereinbefore), defines the expression organized crime to mean any continuing unlawful activity by an individual, singly or jointly, either as a member of an organized crime syndicate or on behalf of such syndicate, by use of violence or threat of violence or intimidation or coercion, or other unlawful means, with the objective of gaining pecuniary benefits, or gaining undue economic or other advantage for himself or any other person or

promoting insurgency. Clause (f), defines organized crime syndicate to mean a group of two or more persons who, acting either singly or collectively, as a syndicate or gang indulge in activities of organized crime. The said definitions are interrelated; the organized crime syndicate refers to an organized crime which in turn refers to continuing unlawful activity. MCOCA, in the subsequent provisions lays down the punishment for organized crime and has created special machinery for the trial of a series of offences created by it.

Prior to the 2004 amendment, the UAPA did not contain the provisions to deal with terrorism and terrorist activities. By the 2004 amendment, new provisions were inserted in the UAPA to deal with terrorism and terrorist activities. The Preamble of the UAPA was also amended to state that the said Act is enacted to provide for the more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations, and dealing with terrorist activities and for matters connected therewith. In 2008 amendment, the Preamble has again been amended and the amended Preamble now also contains a reference to the resolution adopted by the Security Counsel of the United Nations on 28.09.2001 and also makes reference to the other resolutions passed by the Security Counsel requiring the States (Nations which are member of the United Nations) to take action against certain terrorist and terrorist organizations. It also makes reference to the order issued by the Central Government in exercise of power u/s 2 of the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1947 which is known as the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order, 2007. The Preamble of the UAPA now reads as under :

An act to provide for the more effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations and for dealing with terrorist activities and for matters connected therewith. Whereas the Security Council of the United Nations in its 4385th meeting adopted Resolution 1373 (2001) on 28th September, 2001, under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations requiring all the States to take measures to combat international terrorism; And whereas Resolutions 1267 (1999), 1333 (2000), 1363 (2001) 1390 (2002), 1455 (2003), 1526 (2004), 1566 (2004), 1617(2005), 1735 (2006) and 1822(2008) of the Security Council of the United Nations require the States to take action against certain terrorists and terrorist organizations, to freeze the assets and other economic resources, to prevent the entry into or the transit through their territory, and prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms and ammunitions to the individuals or entities listed in the Schedule; And whereas the Central Government, in exercise of the powers conferred by section 2 of the United Nations (Security Council) Act, 1947 (43 of 1947) has made the Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order, 2007; And whereas it is considered necessary to give effect to the said Resolutions and the Order and to make special provisions for the prevention of, and for coping with, terrorist activities and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Under the MCOCA the emphasis is on crime and pecuniary benefits arising therefrom. In the wisdom of the legislature these are activities which are committed with the objective of gaining pecuniary benefits of economic advantages and which over a period of time have extended to promoting insurgency. The concept of the offence of ‘terrorist act’ u/s 15 of the UAPA essentially postulates a threat or likely threat to unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of India or striking terror amongst people in India or in foreign country or to compel the Government of India or the Government of a foreign country or any other person to do or abstain from doing any act. The offence of terrorist act u/s 15 and the offence of Unlawful activity u/s 2(1)(0) of the UAPA have some elements in commonality. The essential element in both is the challenge or threat or likely threat to the sovereignty, security, integrity and unity of India. While Section 15 requires some physical act like use of bombs and other weapons etc., Section 2(1)(0) takes in its compass even a written or spoken words or any other visible representation intended or which supports a challenge to the unity, sovereignty, integrity and security of India. The said offences are related to the Defence of India and are covered by Entry 1 of the Union List.

Moreover, the meaning of the term ‘Unlawful Activity’ in the MCOCA is altogether different from the meaning of the term ‘Unlawful Activity’ in the UAPA. It is also pertinent to note that the MCOCA does not deal with the terrorist organizations which indulge in terrorist activities and similarly, the UAPA does not deal with organized gangs or crime syndicate of the kind specially targeted by the MCOCA. Thus, the offence of organized crime under the MCOCA and the offence of terrorist act under the UAPA operate in different fields and are of different kinds and their essential contents and ingredients are altogether different.

The concept of insurgency u/s 2(1)(e) of the MCOCA, if seen and understood in the context of the Act, is a grave disturbance of the public order within the state. The disturbance of the public order, in each and every case, cannot be said to be identical or similar to the concepts of terrorist activity as contemplated respectively u/s 2(1)(0) and Section 15 of the UAPA. Moreover, what is punishable under the MCOCA is promoting insurgency and not insurgency per se.

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