The Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday approved the draft of a bill to enact a stringent law on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) to combat land mafia, mining mafia and organised crime, even as the opposition termed it as a "fascist bill".
The draft Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crime Bill was approved in a meeting of the state Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, state government spokesperson and Power Minister Srikant Sharma told reporters.
It is expected to be introduced in the Winter Session of the state legislature which commences in Lucknow on Thursday.
Opposition parties hit out at the government, claiming that the new law was drafted to fool people.
"We will oppose the bill. It is fascist and undemocratic. There are already a number of laws. It's just to curb voice of the people as Yogi Adityanth government has done nothing in the past nine months. It's a bid to curtail freedom and will be misused", SP spokesman Rajendra Chowdhury told PTI.
Congress Legislative Party leader Ajay Kumar Lallu to a question said, "The BJP has done nothing in the state after forming the government.
They (BJP) has failed to maintain law and order. The existing laws are not implented and the new one has been drafted just to fool people and divert their attention."
On opposing the draft bill, Lallu said he had not yet got a copy of the same. "It will be decided by the party accordingly at an opportune time", he said.
Earlier, Sharma said that the rule of law was the top priority of the government.
"For this it is essential that those indulging in mafia and 'goonda' activities, and disturbing peace in the society are identified and a special drive is launched against them...The bill is being brought with this purpose in mind", he said.
The draft of the proposed legislation has been prepared in consultation with the Law Department to check organised and white-collar crime, and mafias, Sharma said, adding that there are 28 provisions in the draft bill which are not present in the existing Gangsters Act.
The committee set up to examine the draft bill also took into account a similar act in Maharashtra. It was headed by the home department's secretary with the additional director general of police for crime and special secretary law as its members, the minister said.
Sharma said organised crime was defined in detail in the draft bill.
"Kidnapping for ransom, illegal mining, manufacturing illicit liquor and its sale, acquiring contracts on the basis of muscle power, organised exploitation of forest produce, trade in wildlife, fake medicines, grabbing of government and private properties, and 'rangdari' (extortion) will come underthe ambit of the new law", he said.
Sharma said arrangements have also been made to check the misuse of the bill and that cases under it will be filed only on the recommendations of the committee of divisional commissioner and the range deputy inspector general of police.
The permission of the zonal inspector general of police will be required before filing of charge sheet after thorough inquiry, he said.
It has also been proposed that properties amassed through organised crime would be taken over by the government with the permission of the court during the course of investigation to check criminal elements from taking advantage of it, Sharma said.
The property will be confiscated by the state government after conviction, the minister said.
Sharma said that special courts will be constituted for hearing of cases lodged under the provisions of this bill and that a state-level organised crime control authority has been proposed to monitor gangs involved in organised crime.
The state-level authority will be headed by the principal secretary for home.
"This authority will either take cognisance on its own or on a complaint. It will probe the activities of organised gangs and will be entitled to examine any government file related to the case", he said.
There is also a provision to form district-level organised crime control authorities which will be led by district magistrates. They can recommend cases to the state-level authority after thorough probe, Sharma said.
The draft bill also proposes a tribunal led by a retired high court judge for appealing against it. It will have a principal secretary and an official of the DGP rank as its members, the minister said, adding that anyone can appeal against the decision of the authority in this tribunal.
Those having security and found to be involved in organised crime will no longer be extended government protection and all white-collar criminals will be treated as such, he said.