PUCL Bulletin, August 2001

More opposition to Karnataka's crime bill

Also see, Karnataka Organised Crime Bill will undermine civil liberties

Dear friend, You may be aware of the silent passing of the above mentioned repressive law by the legislatures of Karnataka, which is worse than TADA, that was repealed in 1995. Surprisingly, many States that opposed the enactment of the 'Criminal Law Amendment Bill' (TADA with a Human face!!) on the expiry of TADA, are attempting to reintroduce TADA in other forms. The most disturbing aspects of the Karnataka Bill is the inclusion of terms such as 'insurgency' and 'promoting insurgency' etc. With this, 'insurgency' is equated with organized crime! The enclosed document, which is an appeal to the President of India, explains the other problems in the Bill.

This bill was adopted on Nov 25th 2000 and the Governor of Karnataka had forwarded it to the President for his assent and it is still pending before the President. There is an urgent need to oppose this Bill. We earnestly request you to publish the appeal, sign it, and send it to the President at the earliest. You may also circulate this appeal among your friends and motivate them to join the campaign.

This campaign is jointly organized by the People's Union For Civil Liberties-Karnataka, People's Democratic Forum (PDF) and South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM). Eminent people like Justice H.G. Bala Krishna, H.S. Doraiswamy, Dr. G. Ramakrishna, Prof. Nagari Babaiah, Prof. Hasan Mansur, Prof. Nagaragere Ramesh. Dr. Ramadas Rao, Ms. M.R. Maithreyi, Mr. E.P. Menon, Mr. Manglura Vijay, Mr. S.B. Radhakrishna, and Mr. J. Anil Kumar have endorsed this campaign. Let us join them and do our best to stop this draconian Bill.

-- Yours Sincerely, Mathews Philip.

Sri. K.R. Narayanan
President of the Republic of India,
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi.

Your Excellency,
SUBJECT: - "Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Bill, 2001"
I would like to draw your kind attention to the newly formulated 'Karnataka Control of Organized Crime Bill 2001', passed in both houses of the legislature sans discussion or careful analysis on 25th Nov 2000 and subsequently signed by the Governor on 16th Jan 2001. The Bill is now referred to your Excellency's concurrence before it becomes a law of the State.

A perceptive reading of the Bill in tandem with legal experts, mass organizations, and retired judges exposes the many pitfalls in the Bill.
We hope that your Excellency would consider the Bill in the perspective of the common man, which is necessary to see the Bill in its true colours - autocratic and draconian.

Organized crime as mentioned in the Act is not new. The only new feature of the present bill is the term 'organized crime syndicate', a comparatively recent global phenomenon. Though we admit the necessity of punishment in these cases, we would like to emphasize the unholy nexus between the underworld and politicians, which is the genesis of these crimes. Until this nexus is severed, no amount of legislation would be effective.

  1. The most disturbing aspect of the KCOC is the use of the words 'insurgency' and 'promoting insurgency'. These words are not mentioned in the preamble, statement of objects or purpose of the Bill. Neither is it defined, leading to ambiguity and scope for varied interpretation. Insurgency is not defined in the IPC either. To equate it with a crime would be in violation of the citizen's fundamental rights to freedom of speech and expression.

  2. The Bill invests the police with unbridled powers and the scope for misuse is great. For example an individual's communication channels may be intercepted. This is in gross violation of the right to privacy.

  3. Acceptability accorded to confessions made before a police officer under the KCOC is in violation of the letter and spirit of the Indian Evidence Act.

  4. Another atrocious element is the blanket immunity given to the police. Any action of a government servant under this Act was deemed to have been doing in good faith and he cannot be proceeded against.

  5. A trial under the KCOC can be held in camera and the details of witnesses kept secret. Such permission militates against the framework of civilized society. "It destroys transparency and openness of Justice" (Krishna Iyer). The provisions relating to bail are ridiculous, to say the least. Bail will be granted only if the court is satisfied that the accused has not committed the crime, or will not do so in the future. This amounts to judging the accused at the preliminary stage itself. If the accused is on bail in any other case, bail will not be granted again.

  6. Yet another serious flaw in the Bill is the absence of a definite time frame for disposal of cases. This makes it nothing less torturous than the pernicious TADA, notorious for detaining undertrials for long periods of time thereby obstructing the cause of justice. The absence of any permission to confess before a judicial magistrate makes it more atrocious than TADA.

I, therefore, urge your Excellency not to give concurrence to this Bill and send it back to the Government of Karnataka. The state government would do well to be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people than impose such unconstitutional and anti-democratic laws

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