Despite being rejected in the past, the Gujarat government has passed the stringent Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GUJCOC) bill, which among things allows law enforcement agencies to tap telephones, make confessions made before the police admissible in court and detain suspects in cases for longer.
The law was passed by the Gujarat Assembly after the opposition Congress walked out and abstained from voting on the contentious clauses of the legislation.
The GUJCOC bill, which is said to be on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), was rejected in 2004 and 2008 by the then Presidents AJP Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil, respectively who had suggested some amendments in provisions related to telephone interception and confessions made before police officer being considered as evidence in court.
The state assembly had reportedly passed the legislation for a third time but it is still pending before the President, according to this Ibnlive report.
The state government has once again prepared a new draft of the bill and rechristened it Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill.
Among the features of the bill that have had human rights campaigners up in arms include the fact that authorities can intercept and record telephone calls that can later be presented as evidence and also puts the onus of proving one’s innocence on the accused. Like the now repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) the law allows confessions made to law enforcement agencies admissible in court as evidence.
While the bill has been renamed , it still contains the provisions that had led to its rejection by Presidents in the past.
Justifying the provision on tapping of telephones, 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.
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam had in 2004 objected over the tapping of telephones 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.
with inputs from PTI
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