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Organised Crime in India

Context: The proposed Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) expands the definition of organized crime and provides for comprehensive offenses of organized crime under Section 109, along with different types and degrees of involvement.

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  • Recently, the Union Home Minister introduced three new bills in the Lok Sabha to revamp India’s criminal justice system.
    • The Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita Bill, 2023, which will replace the IPC, 1860.
    • The Bhartiya Nagrik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023, which will replace the CrPC, 1898.
    • The Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023, which will replace the Evidence Act, 1872.
  • Currently, there is no comprehensive definition of organised crime under a single law.
    • Various state governments have passed the Control of Organised Crime Acts (COCA).
    • Uttar Pradesh and some other states have individual Gangsters Acts, while other offences such as trafficking, dacoity, looting, etc. are defined and punished under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • BNS and Organised crime:
    • It would accommodate comprehensive offences of organised crime under Section 109, along with the different types and degrees of involvement, including drug and human trafficking.
    • It would also include various types of organised gang violence such as contract killings, which, until now, were under the IPC, and special laws such as the MCOCA, Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act, NDPS, etc.
    • Economic offences like fraud, hawala transactions and Ponzi schemes, punishable under the IPC or the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and other acts, will be brought under the umbrella of organised crime.
    • The proposed bill prescribes different punishments for organised crime. The punishment would depend on the degree of offence and harm caused.
    • Petty crimes like chain snatching, vehicle thefts, ATM/ticket frauds, pickpocketing, etc. have also been brought into the definition of organised petty crime under Section 110.

Concept of organised crime

  • Organized crime refers to a complex and structured criminal enterprise that engages in illegal activities on a regular and systematic basis.
  • These criminal organizations often operate with a hierarchy, division of labor, and a code of conduct within their ranks.
  • The primary goal of organized crime groups is to generate significant profits through various illicit means, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, racketeering, and more.

Nature and characteristics of organised crime:

  • Presence of mens rea and actus reus:
    • The mens rea: It implies a guilty mind i.e., a person being mindful of his/her actions and knowing that a successful attempt would result in a crime.
    • The actus reus: It implies a physical activity or omission by the person which gives effect to the crime.
  • Commission of crime:  To commit a crime (including organised crime), there are four stages that needs to be fulfilled.
    • First, there should be an intention to commit a crime.
    • Secondly, there must be some preparation to give effect to the crime.
    • Third, there should be an attempt, i.e., presence of some action in pursuance of the crime being committed.
    • Lastly, the attempt should be accomplished for the commission of that crime.
  • Objective of earning profits:  The purpose of committing an organised crime is not to take revenge or harm someone, rather it is a kind of illegal business or a way for people to earn profits.
    • The criminal activities are incidental to this profit-seeking motive and often result in physical and/or mental harm.
  • Regularity: Another important characteristic of an organised crime is that it is not a one-time event, but rather on a regular basis, just as a business.
    • This regularity is a defining characteristic of organized crime, as a structured system is established for the repeated commission of similar criminal activities aimed at generating profits.

Types of organised crimes

Some of the most common types of organised crimes in India have been discussed below:

  • Money laundering: It is the process of disguising the origins of illegally obtained money, making it appear legitimate.
  • Smuggling: It is the illegal transportation or importation of goods, people, or items across borders or through checkpoints, typically in violation of customs, immigration, or other relevant laws.
    • Mostly items such as contraband substances, valuable jewels, electronics, certain fabrics, etc. are smuggled in India.
    • Due to the vast coastline, it becomes easy for people to smuggle goods.
  • Drug trafficking: Organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking smuggle, manufacture, distribute, and sell illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana.
    • It is usually considered that the most important reason for the high rate of drug trafficking is the geographical condition of India.
    • India is located between the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Thailand, and Laos) on the northeast and Golden Crescent (Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran) on the northwest- both of which are the two largest sources of illicit drugs in Asia.
  • Human trafficking: Human trafficking involves the illegal recruitment, transportation, and exploitation of people, often for purposes such as forced labor, sexual exploitation, or organ trafficking.
    • Article 23 of the Indian Constitution explicitly prohibits human trafficking.
  • Counterfeiting: Counterfeit goods, including fake currency, luxury items, and pharmaceuticals, are produced and distributed by organized crime networks, undermining legitimate businesses and posing risks to public health.
  • Racketeering: Racketeering involves engaging in a variety of criminal activities, often through a systematic and ongoing operation. These activities can include extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling, and more.

Laws governing organised crimes in India

Indian Penal Code (IPC)
  • Criminal Conspiracy (Section 120A): This section deals with criminal conspiracy. It applies when two or more persons agree to commit a crime, making them liable for conspiracy. Organized crimes often involve such conspiracies.
  • Specific Crime Sections: Organized criminals can be charged under specific sections of the IPC depending on the nature of the crime they commit. For instance, murder (Section 300 and Section 302), kidnapping (Section 360, Section 363, and Section 364A), and human trafficking (Section 370 and Section 370A) are covered under relevant sections of the IPC.
Organized Crime-Specific Law
  • Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA): While there is no central legislation on organized crime, Maharashtra has the MCOCA, which provides provisions related to evidence, witness protection, court presumptions, and more. It is particularly aimed at combating organized crime in the state.
Preventive Laws
  • National Security Act, 1980 (NSA): The NSA allows for the preventive detention of individuals acting in a manner prejudicial to the defense, foreign relations, or security of India. It can be applied to individuals involved in organized crime activities that threaten national security.
  • Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988: This law is designed to control individuals engaged in the illicit trafficking of drugs and narcotic substances. It allows for preventive detention for up to one year, extendable depending on the severity of the case.
Miscellaneous Laws
  • Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985: This law governs cases related to the trafficking of narcotic substances.
  • Customs Act, 1962: This act deals with cases related to smuggling and imposes liability on individuals involved in smuggling activities.
  • Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002: It deals with cases related to money laundering, which often plays a role in organized crime.
  • Other laws, such as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956; the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973; the Public Gambling Act, 1867; and various state-level laws, may also be relevant in addressing specific aspects of organized crime.

Legal problems associated with organised crimes

  • Lack of Specialized Legislation: India lacks central legislation specifically targeting organized crime. Specialized laws are needed, along with empowered law enforcement agencies to effectively combat it.
  • Slow Trials: The legal process for organized crime cases is often slow, resulting in a low conviction rate. Witnesses may refuse to testify due to fear, and evidence can be lost over time.
  • Difficulty in Obtaining Proof: Witnesses often decline to testify against organized criminals, leading to acquittals due to insufficient evidence. The influence and intimidation tactics used by these criminals deter witnesses from cooperating.
  • Lack of Resources and Technology: Many parts of India lack adequate resources and technology for law enforcement. Lower-ranked police officers may not have sufficient powers, and statements made before them may not be admissible as evidence. Additionally, they often lack the necessary equipment to effectively track and apprehend organized criminals.
  • Lack of Coordination: The absence of a central agency overseeing organized crime activities results in a lack of coordination among states. Organized criminals frequently move between states, making it difficult to apprehend them due to the disjointed efforts of law enforcement agencies.

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