The Uttar Pradesh Assembly today passed the stringent UPCOC bill, aimed at curbing organised crime and terror, by voice vote after the agitated Opposition staged a walkout alleging that it was a “draconian” legislation.
A united Opposition expressed apprehension that the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crimes (UPCOC) Bill, 2017, could be misused against political adversaries and the press and demanded that it be sent to the select committee of the House for scrutiny.
The bill was tabled by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to enact a law on the lines of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). It also entailed stern punishment for those trying to dislodge the government forcibly or violently.
Opposition members were of the view that there was no need for such a legislation as there were sufficient provisions in the IPC and the CrPC and called it a “black law”.
The bill is likely to be taken up tomorrow in the Legislative Council where the ruling BJP does not enjoy majority.
Initiating the debate, the chief minister assured the members against any possible misuse of the proposed law.
“Ever since the day the draft of the bill was approved by the cabinet, I have noticed that the Opposition parties are against it...I can give the guarantee that the BJP has never misused any law and will never do so...we have come to bring development and give security without any bias,” he said.
“You have been staging walkouts on law and order and raise finger over the state of affairs so why this opposition to the bill,” Adityanath said.
“I assure you that no one will misuse it...it has been brought to break the backbone of those who indulge in organised crimes,” he said, adding no one can say that his government has worked with political vendetta in the nine months it has been in power.
The chief minister compared the bill with similar laws in Maharashtra and Karnataka and said it will create terror in the minds of those who have made crime a trade. Seeking opposition’s backing for the bill, he cited its salient features and said it was unfortunate that they wanted to support those who are indulging in organised crime by opposing the proposed law.
The chief minister said that another bill is on the anvil through which about 20,000 political cases will come to an end.
Though the concerted efforts taken by his government in the past nine months have had a positive impact, a need was felt to bring a law to check those involved in corruption, illegal and immoral acts and were creating anarchy, riots and mafia raj, he said.
Tarring the bill as a “black law” and an “undeclared emergency”, Leader of the Opposition Ram Govind Chaudhary referred to an earlier attempt by the then Mayawati government in 2007 which had got a similar bill passed but it failed to get presidential assent.
Chaudhary even read the previous speeches of BJP leaders Hukum Singh, now an MP, and MLA Suresh Khanna, who is the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, and stressed that both had opposed the measure expressing fear that it will be used against the opposition parties.
“All rights have been given to the administration and to the police in the bill...the government which had promised to establish Ram Rajya is making provision for capital punishment,” he said and stressed that the basic ethos of the Constitution are that no innocent should be punished.
“I request you against creating a ‘bhasmasur’ (self- destructive demon) ...having the feeling of autocracy in a democracy is not good,” Chaudhary said.
Apprehending that the bill has provisions that can also be used against the media, Chaudhary alleged that it is an attack on two main pillars of democracy - the legislature and the fourth estate.
The Leader of the Opposition alleged that the BJP wanted to remain in power for a longer period of time than the Congress “for which they do not want anyone left to oppose them”.
“They want to conduct the 2019 (Lok Sabha) polls with no rival to challenge them,” he alleged.
Chaudhary pressed for sending the bill to the select committee of the House to scrutinise its provisions and urged Speaker Hriday Narain Dixit to get the “draconian” bill withdrawn.
Lalji Verma and Sukhdev Rajbhar of BSP, SP leader Azam Khan and Ajay Kumar Lallu (Cong) alleged that the bill has been brought to crush the voice of politicans, farmers, social workers and journalists and is against the constitutional right of freedom of expression.
Independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh alias Raja Bhaiya demanded a secret vote on the bill and asked all party leaders to deliberate on its provisions.
The statement of object and reasons appended to the bill states that the existing legal framework of penal and procedural law and the adjudicatory system were found to be inadequate in controlling organised crime.
To combat organised crime, it was decided that a special law would be introduced, with stringent and deterrent provisions including attachment of properties, remand process, setting up of special courts and special prosecutors for speedy trials and modern investigation processes.
Under organised crime, it listed offences such as kidnapping or abduction, illegal or forcible bidding in government contracts, murdering anyone by taking money or getting someone killed, grabbing of government or individual land, purchase of land on forged documents and collection of protection money.
It included illegal mining or illegal extraction of forest produce or trade in wildlife, money laundering, human trafficking, spurious liquor manufacturing and trafficking in drugs and other banned items.
The bill envisages stringent punishment for convicts. Those causing loss of life can be sentenced to death or be imprisoned for life and pay a minimum fine of Rs 25 lakh. For other crimes, the punishment could vary between seven years and up to a life term in jail, with a minimum fine of Rs 15 lakh.
The bill also provides for setting up special courts for speedy disposal of cases in consultation with the high court.