Kill these special laws

InfoChange India News & Features development news India – Reclaiming the meaning of independence: The struggle against special laws

What are special laws?

Special laws create new offences like committing ‘organised crime’, committing a ‘terrorist act’ or being a member of an ‘unlawful organisation’. They also do away with the procedural safeguards which exist under ordinary criminal law as embodied in the Indian Penal Code, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act. Examples of special laws abound in post-colonial India — MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act), AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act), KCOCA (Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act), CSSA (Chhattisgarh Special Security Act). Since what is contemporary for us today is KCOCA, particularly after the chief minister’s statement on Independence Day, we will first look at some features of KCOCA and their implications for democratic practice.

We dont need these special laws

India has been successful in creating a largely stable and law abiding society – with the lowest prisoners-to-population ratio and the police-to-population ratio in the world. It is time that we resisted the temptation of using these ‘special laws’ which are a colonial ‘heritage’.

These laws have been singularly ineffective and useless – but instead have ‘corrupted’ police approach and methodology. Apart from a few, like KPS Gill who falsely (takes and is given) credit for controlling terrorism in Punjab. The conviction rate for those booked under these laws are under 5%.

  1. Galeo Rhinus
    October 22, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    does India’s existing legal framework cover any form of organized crime? If it does – and does so effectively – I will concede this argument… but I don’t see any analysis here… rather a naive assessment.

  2. October 23, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Organized crime in India, (based in Mumbai, largely), was a result of colonial economic policies – which India persisted with, even after Independence.

    The biggest reason for the prosperity of the Indian underworld was the ban on gold imports. Gold imports into India were funded by drugs handling. India’s traditional and well-oiled hawala trade managed the humongous cash flows from this drugs-for-gold-for-rupees-to-dollars-to-rupees cycle.

    India became a trans-shippment centre for drugs from the golden crescent and the golden triangle. In turn the underworld imported gold – imports of which were not allowed into India.

    The West was keen on gold imports restrictions in India – as free imports by India would have brought down the entire Bretton Woods house of cards. (Morarji Desai has been rewarded for this co-operation – and his bust is likely to go up on Mount Rushmore – as you know).

    The 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai happened soon after gold imports were allowed into India – and to my mind it is not a co-incidence.

    The Mumbai underworld went into deathly downward spiral after that. They survived for a few years on extortion from real estate sector – which was stamped out by the Mumbai police.

    For sometime thereafter, the underworld dabbled with Indian cinema – with little success.

    The Mumbai police went after the underworld for the last 15 years – with a string of ‘encounters’. Of course, some victims of these ‘encounters’ were not from the underworld. Also some of the ‘encounter’ specialists, started taking sides in gang warfares.

    These ‘corrupt encounter specialists’ have now been brought to book – and sidelined.

    Thus the entire origin of underworld and organized crime in India is due to India’s ‘imported’ policy regime – which has been gradually junked.

    These ‘special laws’ are also an import – which is so well brought out in your (forthcoming) book. May I remind you of the figure of eight chapters?

    In the last few decades, all these special laws were used for: –

    1. Political vendetta against opposition leaders (MISA under Indira Gandhi; against Vaiko by Jayalalitha, etc.).

    2. Business sabotage – by organizing a raid raj against ‘unco-operative business houses, business competitors, etc.

    3. Personal vendetta by local criminals, police, etc.

    Thus your entire understanding of the genesis of crime and these special laws is not based on a data.

    Is it that your support is based on the fact that some BJP leaders want it?

  3. October 23, 2008 at 11:38 am

    There are two posts which are relevant – which will add to my above comment.
    1. Gold Policy in Modern India
    2. Morarji Desai On Mount Rushmore

  4. Galeo Rhinus
    October 23, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    In terms of the India earlier “criminal underworld” – what you are saying is fine.

    However, organized crime as it relates to terrorism is slightly different. Let’s distinguish an angry young man who takes a gun and unleashes it on a mob from a criminal conspiracy to say set off a series of bomb blasts in any city.

    Things get a little complicated when terrorism in today’s form needs to be tackled. Especially so – when the funds for a terrorist plot come from abroad.

    Consider the following fictitious chain of events – to deliver funds from an outside country to Delhi – to fund some bomb blasts.

    1. A terrorist boss (person A) sitting outside India wants to fund a series of bomb blasts in India and needs to transfer funds for this plot.
    2. He places a large order of say a finished clothes from an innocuous outlet in say Varanasi – person B. He wires the money to this outlet and asks the goods to be delivered to someone in Azamgarh – person C.
    3. Person C sells the clothes to 2-3 local merchants – who are not involved – who would resell these at retail. People D, E, F.
    4. Person C is then delivers the proceeds to someone in Delhi – Person G.

    A large part of this “organized crime” are the little roles that are played by various people in the chain – which in itself is not a crime.

    In the above chain – people B,D,E and F are not involved – but person A and person G are the real perpetrators – and person C is the one who knows the identity or information of person A and G.

    As far as I know, there is no law that would legally allow the threat of a conviction to require person C to cooperate in revealing the identity of persons A and G. If C has not broken any law – there is no reason for him to cooperate. What would end up happening is that the police will get overzealous and beat him up to cooperate. Worse still – not understanding this chain completely – the police might beat up people B, D, E and F.

    Without the threat of legal action – the burden of breaking the law falls on the police. Who might end up hurting perfectly innocent people. Is that a fair system?

    Remember this is a simple example – where our current legal framework can make criminals out of the good police officers – allow transitory participants in a crime to walk.

    One simple change to the law and then person C can be threatened with legal action to reveal the identities of A and G. In our current law – C can walk away free (or bruised – but free)

    You can always view all of this cynically – but the stick of a criminal conviction is far more effective than the illegal torture of police. Don’t you think?

  5. October 24, 2008 at 8:27 am

    You are following the KPS Gill theory of fighting terrorism. KPS Gill claims that his ‘bullet-for-bullet’ tactics solved the Punjab terror problem. The actual story is something else.

    Prime Minister PVN sent Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Geneva – where Pakistan came within a micron-distance of being declared a ‘terrorist state’ – like Libya was at that time. The US also joined in – and Pakistan was told to lay off.

    Pakistan had no choice. Within a few weeks, the terrorist camps closed down – and Punjab returned to normalcy.

    Similarly, today, Pakistan needs to be read the Riot Act – which seems to be happening. Zardari’s China trip, the US trip and his recourse to IMF are a pointer to the international community’s warning to Pakistan.

    Terrorism in India is a foreign policy problem – and not a domestic, legal problem, which your ABCDEFG example seems to suggest.

    India needs to get its foreign policy act together – which is what I mentioned in my previous posts about India’s foreign policy problems with China and Pakistan. The fake currency racket is an excellent example.

  6. Galeo Rhinus
    October 25, 2008 at 12:31 am

    Yes – some terrorism is state sponsored – which would need to be dealt with at a state level.

    However, *today*, the geo-politics has created many splinter organizations in many countries (forget al qaida etc.) that are not under the control of their respective governments.

    Sure – you can pressurize the governments to crack down on them – but that will never suffice.

    It is naive to take a general idea of having as few laws as possible – which I agree with – and apply it to this case – when thousands upon thousands of other laws could be eliminated.

    When (or if) India replaces its anglo-saxon constitution with an Indic one – your suggestions will be directly relevant.

    For now – whether or not we like it – India needs a solution NOW – before more innocents get slaughtered.

  1. August 19, 2009 at 11:13 am

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