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President’s Assent Granted for Gujarat’s Anti-Terror Bill

President Ramnath Kovind has given his assent to the Gujarat’s controversial anti-terror legislation i.e. the ‘Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime (GCTOC)’ Bill, which was passed in March 2015.

The Bill earlier named as the Gujarat Control of Organized Crime Bill had failed to get the Presidential nod thrice since 2004. In 2015, The Gujarat Government renamed the bill and reintroduced but did retain its controversial provisions.

Highlights of the Bill

  • The Gujarat Assembly had passed the GCTOC Bill with a view to curb down ‘organized crime’. It is essentially an anti-terrorism law modeled on laws such as the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act.
  • One of the striking features of the act is that from now on, intercepted telephonic conversations will considered as legitimate evidence.
  • The revamped legislation defines ‘terrorist acts’ as including “an act committed with the intention to disturb law and order or public order or threaten the unity, integrity and security of the State”, apart from economic offences.
  • The economic offences under the Bill include, Ponzi Schemes, multi-level marketing schemes and organized betting. It also includes extortion, land grabbing, contract killings, cyber crimes and human trafficking.
  • Anyone conspiring or attempting to commit, as well as advocating and abetting, any offence under it can invite a term of not less than five years going up to life. Offences resulting in death of a person are punishable by death or imprisonment for life.
  • The bill also provides for the creation of a special court as well as the appointment of special public prosecutors. It also provides for attachment of properties acquired through organized crimes. Transfer of properties can also be cancelled.

The Controversial Provisions

  • The Bill was accused of containing controversial provisions right from the start. One of the most controversial provisions is that the interception of oral, wire or electronic conversations and their admissibility as evidence in a court of law. The provisions had at its apprehensions with the Ministry of Information and Technology, which said that the Bill was in conflict with the Indian Telegraph Act.
  • Another controversial provision was that; a statement made before a police officer, not below the rank of Superintendent of Police shall be admissible as evidence in the court. Civil rights organizations have been opposing this provision, calling it a violation of the fundamental rights of an accused.
  • The GujCTOC Act provides immunity to the state government and its officers from legal action in the form of a suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings for an action that is “done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the Act”.
  • Under the new law, cops get up to 180 days to file a chargesheet instead of the stipulated 90 days time. The accused will not be granted bail until the public prosecutor has got a good chance to oppose the bail application.

SOURCE: The Hindu

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