Gujarat Assembly passes anti-terror bill

INDIA'S SECURITY PERSONNEL PATROL THE AKSHARDHAM TEMPLE IN GANDHINAGAR.After a long wait to get presidential assent for its anti-terror bill, the state assembly has passed the controversial Gujarat Control of Organized Crime Bill (GUJCOC) in improved form.

The new bill is an improved version of the original GUGCOC bill initiated in 2003, which had been pending for over a decade. This year the state government led by Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel pitched again for the controversial GUJCOC bill which was thrice declined by the president.

The new bill allows the police to intercept and record conversations, and present it before the court as evidence. Human right activists, however, fear that such provisions will enable police to torture the detainee to make confessions in order to present the statement before the court. The bill also provides for provisions to keep a suspect in custody from 15 days to 30 days, and gives the police 180 days instead of the earlier 90 days to file a charge sheet.  Both these provisions could lead to the harassment of the convicts.

According to Section 14 of the Bill:  “Notwithstanding anything contained in the code or in any other law which is in force, the evidence collected through the interception of wire, electronic or oral communication under the provisions of any other law shall be admissible as evidence against the accused in the court during the trial of the case.” According to Section 16 of the Bill, the accused’s statement before a police officer, not below the rank of superintendent of police, will be treated as evidence.

The state government has again presented it for the approval and is still pending for the clearance from the president. The Bill was passed amid strong protest from the oppositions, who walked out in disappointment. Later the bill was passed by majority vote in the state assembly.

“Adequate checks and balances have been made to see that the police do not misuse the provisions of the new law,” Minister of State for Home Rajni Patel told the assembly.

The bill was the brain child of Narendra Modi, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. The earlier GUJCOC Bill, which was almost similar to the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA, was declined in 2004 and 2008 by then  presidents, APJ Abdul Kalam and Pratibha Patil respectively. Both had suggested some improvements to be done before presenting again for approvals.

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