Back in the 80’s, gangs and criminals were growing more numerous every day, and crimes like dacoity, murder, extortion, smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering and etc. were also on the rise in Uttar Pradesh. A new, stricter law to control gangs and gangsters was demanded as a result of the rise in violence. As a result, the Uttar Pradesh government implemented The Uttar Pradesh Gangster and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act on January 15, 1986.
Chief Minister VirBahadur Singh introduced the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act in 1986. The Act received the President’s assent on March 19, 1986, but it is thought that it went into effect on January 15, 1986. The primary goal of the Act was to apprehend 2500 well-known gangsters in the state and imprison them in order to stop organised crime and other anti-social behaviour that disturbs the peace of the state.
Insights into the Act
The term “gang” is defined in Section 2(b) of the Act. A gang is described in this clause as a group of people who engage in antisocial behaviour both individually and collectively. And intend to use coercion, intimidation, violence, or any other means to disrupt public order or try to gain any unauthorised benefit or advantage for himself or anyone else.
Section 2(c) of the Act provides the definition of the term “gangster.” The offender includes anyone who aids or abets any gang activity as described in clause (b), whether they are a gang member, leader, or organiser. The individual can act in the capacity before or after the Act is committed, or they can harbour the criminal.
- Public Servant:
Section 2(d) of the Act provides a definition for this term. In accordance with this Section, the term “public servant” used in this Act has the same meaning as under Section 21 of the IPC or any other law currently in effect. It also includes anyone who is lawfully assisting the police or state authorities, whether by providing information or proof regarding an offence or the offender or in any other way.
Misuse of the Act
In KapilRaidas vs State of Uttar Pradesh, The Hon’ble Justice Dinesh Kumar noted that the police are apparently abusing the Gangsters and Anti-social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986 severely, as it has become standard practice for the police to file multiple cases against the accused based on false, fake, or bogus accusations in order to simply implicate him under this Act. This was not the only instance in which such a scenario occurred.
In another case before the Allahabad High Court, it was stated that the accused was a “dreaded criminal.” Due to his arrest under the rigorous UP Gangsters Act at the District Amroha police station, he was denied bail for three months. Further inquiry found that the Akbarabad police station mentioned for the purposes of the case did not even exist, and that police officers had misrepresented him as a notorious criminal. Thus, this instance reveals the unfair methods used by the police.
Is it Constitutional?
Daya Shankar Misra, a lawyer with the Allahabad High Court, believes that certain of the Act’s clauses violate the Indian Constitution. Article 14, 19, 21 and 22 of the Indian Constitution are violated, for instance, when the minimum sentence for lesser offences is likewise two years. In the case of minor offences, these regulations have severe repercussions and cause appalling suffering to people. Despite the fact that these rules are severe, they should nonetheless be in line with the residents’ basic rights. The police are the only ones with the power under this Act, and they can accuse someone without the approval of the executive or judicial branches. This enables police officers to apply the Act however they see fit. Police use this Act to lower the number of active cases. They select unwitting individuals with prior criminal records and coerce them into confessing, after which they falsely implicate them in ongoing cases. This demonstrates how, as the lawyer claimed in the interview with The Economic Times, the police are plainly abusing this Act to their advantage.
Challenging the Constitutionality of the Act
A writ petition challenging the constitutionality of Sections 3, 12, and 14 of the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986 (Gangster Acts), as well as Rules 16(3), 22, 35, 37(3), and 40 of the Gangster Rules, has been filed before the Supreme Court. The petition claims that the provisions are ultra vires and violate Articles 14, 19, 20(2), and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Rule 22 of the Gangster Rules violates fundamental rights since it allows the police unlimited discretion and unrestricted authority to activate the Gangsters Act even against someone who is only charged with a single offence. Additionally, it was noted that Article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution is broken when the Gangsters Act is invoked and a Gangster Act FIR is filed against a person who has committed a crime and a relevant act FIR has already been filed against them. The police are given arbitrary authority to use the Gangsters Act against whoever they choose, in violation of the twin classification test and the principle of reasonable categorization. The petitioner further highlighted that Article 13(2)of the Constitution forbids the State from passing laws that infringe on basic rights. The petitioner also notes that neither the Act nor the Rules categorise accused people, which results in the police abusing the Act.
Highlights of the Petition
- Attachment of Property
The District Magistrate, who is also serving as a prosecutor, has been given the authority to seize the property earned by gangsters under section 14 of the Gangster Act read with Rule 37. It was further mentioned that under Section 15 of the Act read with Rule 40, a person who has been wronged by such attachment proceedings may make a representation before the District Magistrate for the release of the attachment, with the District Magistrate also serving as the adjudicator. This is blatantly against the norms of natural justice.
- Violation of Right to Life, Liberty and Dignity
A person who has not committed any crimes is charged under the Gangsters Act, and he or she will have the label of “gangster” attached to their name for the rest of their lives, which would violate their right to an identity that is respectable under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The court was requested to issue an order finding that Sections 3,12 and 14 of the Gangster Acts, as well as Rules 16(3), 22, 35 and 37(3) of the Gangster Rules, are invalid, unconstitutional, and illegal. Additionally, instructions requiring respondents to halt further proceedings in cases already filed under Sections 2 & 3 of the Gangsters Act and to refrain from filing any new charges under the contested provisions were requested.
- Trail of Cases
The Gangster Acts and Rules stipulate that the special court has priority over the trial court. A person can be found guilty under the Gangster Act if they were a defendant in the basic case but the trial ended with their acquittal. The petitioner emphasised that this breaches the protection to double jeopardy guaranteed by Article 20(2) of the Constitution and Section 300A of the Criminal Procedure Code.
- Violation of Principles of Reasonable Classification and Non- Arbitrariness
The Act allows police and the executive arbitrary authority to use the Gangsters Act against any person without any justifiable classification. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution is inherently violated by any classification that is based exclusively or mostly on the pleasure of the police or executive.
The Gangster Act violates fundamental rights in many ways, as proven in many cases. The ultimate decision of proving it unconstitutional lies with the supreme court and high court, but there are significant examples and incidents to prove that it is being misused by the police and government officials, which directly violate the fundamental rights of the citizens, which ultimately proves it unconstitutional. The Gangsters Act undoubtedly contains strict procedures to combat mafia activity, but there are a number of loopholes that favour the accused, defeating the Act’s intended goal. There should be clear definitions of “gangster” and “gang” put out to ensure that no culpable party escapes punishment. To prevent the police from abusing it, the laws should be examined, and any gaps should be closed. It is necessary to establish a process for the swift resolution of cases and include additional controls to stop similar crimes. It is possible to eradicate mafia activity from the nation with the help of the coordinated efforts of all parties involved.
Author(s) Name: Lakshman Singh (Shri Ramswaroop Memorial University, Lucknow)