The PCOCA Prog­no­sis

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials feel only a strin­gent law can bring down crime in the state

India Today - - STATES - By Asit Jolly

Pun­jab’s top se­cu­rity of­fi­cers are press­ing the newly elected Amarinder Singh govern­ment to leg­is­late fresh le­gal pro­vi­sions to en­sure a higher rate of con­vic­tion in or­gan­ised crime cases. What they want is PCOCA, a Pun­jab-spe­cific law that mim­ics the Ma­ha­rash­tra Con­trol of Or­gan­ised Crime Act (MCOCA), leg­is­lated amid con­sid­er­able con­tro­versy in 1999 to tackle the Mum­bai mafia and which was suc­ces­sively ex­tended to Delhi and some other states.

No­tably, leg­is­la­tion to this ef­fect tabled by for­mer deputy chief min­is­ter Sukhbir Badal was turned down by the then coun­cil of min­is­ters in July 2016 and sent back to the state ad­vo­cate gen­eral for re­vi­sion.

The orig­i­nal PCOCA draft talks of hold­ing sus­pects with­out bail for six months (180 days) and seeks to ren­der ‘con­fes­sions’ made be­fore po­lice of­fi­cers above the rank of SP (su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice) ad­mis­si­ble in a trial court. All it would re­quire is for a DIG (deputy in­spec­tor gen­eral) or an of­fi­cer of a higher rank to put down in writ­ing why IPC (In­dian Pe­nal Code) pro­vi­sions were

PO­LICE POINT TO THE 57 OR­GAN­ISED GANGS, AND THEIR CA­PAC­ITY TO TER­RORISE WIT­NESSES

in­ad­e­quate in a par­tic­u­lar case. In its present form, the draft act also em­pow­ers a court to per­mit in-cam­era trial and have a wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gramme. It also wants spe­cial courts to en­sure speedy tri­als.

But while the PCOCA pro­posal re­vives mem­o­ries of con­tro­ver­sial past in­stances of in­vok­ing MCOCA, in­clud­ing in the match-fix­ing al­le­ga­tions against crick­eter S. Sreesanth, Pun­jab direc­tor gen­eral of po­lice (DGP) Suresh Arora in­sists there is a strong case in favour of the leg­is­la­tion. Cit­ing sta­tis­tics, the DGP points to the abysmally low rate of con­vic­tion in cases per­tain­ing to gang­sters and crime syn­di­cates— just 10 con­vic­tions ver­sus 95 ac­quit­tals dur­ing the ten­ure of the last SAD-BJP regime.

Po­lice of­fi­cers also point to the im­pos­si­ble task of se­cur­ing wit­nesses in re­cent cases, in­clud­ing in the ter­ror bomb­ing at Maur dur­ing the assem­bly poll cam­paign, the killing of Sacha Sauda ad­her­ents, the as­sas­si­na­tion of Pun­jab RSS vice-pres­i­dent Brig. V.P. Gag­neja and the gun­ning down of the Namd­hari ma­tri­arch Mata Chand Kaur in 2016.

No­tably, even the CBI, which was handed over the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Gag­neja and Chand Kaur killings, has not made much head­way in the cases. Po­lice of­fi­cers point to the ex­is­tence of 57 or­gan­ised gangs with close to 500 mem­bers, un­der­scor­ing their ca­pac­ity to ter­rorise wit­nesses. Chief Min­is­ter Amarinder Singh, though, is yet to take a fi­nal call—it’s hardly sur­pris­ing, given the scope for abuse.

AC­TION STA­TIONS

CM Amarinder Singh at a meet­ing with se­nior po­lice of­fi­cials in Chandi­garh

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