Gujarat passes controversial anti-terror Bill

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Among the controversial provisions of the Bill is Clause 16 which makes confessions before police officers admissible in court.

The Gujarat Assembly, on Tuesday, passed the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Bill 2015, a re-adopted version of the controversial 2003 Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill (GUJCOCA), which had not received the presidential nod.

The State government said the legislation was aimed at tackling terrorist activities and organised crime. However, the Opposition Congress staged a walk out opposing the new Bill, saying its provisions were contradictory to the national criminal law.
Some of the key features of the Bill:
1. Among the controversial provisions of the Bill is Clause 16 which makes confessions before police officers admissible in court. The section stipulates that “a confession made by a person before a police officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police…shall be admissible in the trial of such accused, co-accused, abettor or conspirator.”
2. The Bill also provides for extension of the period of investigation from the stipulated 90 days to 180 days.
3. It makes offences under the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime Act, 2015, non-bailable. Clause 20 (4) of the Bill states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, no person accused of an offence punishable under this Act shall, if in custody, be released on bail or on his own bond.”
4. The Bill also makes “evidence collected through the interception of wire, electronic or oral communication” admissible in the court.
5. It provides immunity to the State government from legal action through an ambiguous idea of “good faith.” Section 25 of the Bill states, “No suit, prosecution or other legal proceeding shall lie against the State government or any officer or authority of the State government for anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act.”
Congress opposes
Opposing the new Bill, Congress MLA Shaktisinh Gohil said the legislation went against the national law and the State government was not empowered to bring in such a law.
The clause of confessions made before the police went against the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act.
He pointed out that it was because of the controversial clauses in GUJCOCA, former President APJ Abdul Kalam had returned the Bill to the State legislature for reconsideration and asked for some clauses to be removed.
“When GUJCOCA was first drafted in 2001, the NDA government was at the Centre. The State Governor and the President also had the BJP’s support and yet the Bill was not approved,” he said.
He pointed out that in 2003, the Bill did not make any mention of terrorism and only pertained to organised crime. “Only after it was challenged and brought in again in 2009, the word terrorism was inserted. The legislation was brought in only to gain political mileage,” Mr. Gohil said.
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