The U.P. Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986 received the President’s assent on 19 March, 1986 and it is deemed to have come into force on 15 January, 1986. It extends to the state of Uttar Pradesh only.
However, on 15 August 1986, just a few months after its enactment, the Bir Bahadur Singh government passed orders to freeze the use of the Act as it had a lot of legal loopholes because of which it was being misused by the gangsters.
It was realised that even though a large number of gangsters had been apprehended, they were released on bail because of these loopholes. Also, this Act gave unprecedented power in the hands of the policemen, which was likely to be misused to their own benefit.
Thereafter, the Act was challenged in the Court. The Allahbad HC told the judges to ignore Sections 2(b) and 3 while granting bail to accused persons.
Recently on March 15, 2020, the UP government booked 27 protestors against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) under the Act. Sections 2(b) and 3 were slapped against them for ‘conspiring as a gang against the U.P. Government to commit anti-social activities’.
In January 2020, the Supreme Court told the Allahbad HC to hear the plea of a journalist, Nitish Pandey who was booked under this Act. The bail plea was being adjourned continuously since August, 2019 by the HC as it sought reply from the U.P. government. Pandey was arrested by the UP police because he exposed the corrupt activities of the Noida police on various occasions.
This goes on to show the unscrupulous power in the hands of the U.P. Police which they exercise prejudicially against innocent people!
SCOPE OF THE ACT
The Act was introduced to curb gangsters and prevent any sort of henious activities from being committed by them. The Act contains special provisions to deal with gangsters and prevent any anti-social activities in the State.
Section 2(b) defines a gang. A ‘Gang’ means a group of persons, who acting either singly or collectively, by violence, or threat or show of violence, or intimidation, or coercion or otherwise with the object of disturbing public order or of gaining any undue temporal, pecuniary, material or other advantage for himself or any other person, indulge in anti-social activities. It goes on to state the activities that are considered as anti-social.
In Mushraff Ali, Son of Shaukat Ali v. State of U.P., the High Court of Allahbad suggested to bring the following offences under the domain of the Act:
- offences punishable under the Regulation of Money Lending Act, 1976;
- illegally transporting and/or smuggling of cattle and indulging in acts in contravention of the provisions in the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1955 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960;
- Human trafficking for purpose of commercial exploitation, bonded labour, child labour, sexual exploitation, organ removing and trafficking, beggary and the like activities.
- Offences punishable under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1966.
- printing, transporting and circulating of fake Indian currency notes;
- involving in production, sale and distribution of spurious drugs;
- involving in manufacture, sale and transportation of arms and ammunition in contravention of Sections 5, 7 and 12 of the Arms Act, 1959;
- felling or killing for economic gains, smuggling of products in contravention of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972;
- offences punishable under the Entertainment and Betting Tax Act, 1979;
- Indulging in crimes that impact security of State, Public order and even temp of life.
In compliance with the orders of the High Court, an ordinance to include these changes in the term ‘Gang’ was promulgated by the President on 20 January, 2015. A bill was introduced to replace this ordinance later.
IMPORTANT PROVISIONS OF THE ACT
- Every offence committed under the purview of this Act shall be deemed to be a cognizable offence within the meaning of S.2(c) of the CrPC.
- PENALTIES- Section 3 of the Act provides for imprisonment of a gangster for a period not less than 2 years, which may extend upto 10 years with Rs.5000 or more fine. If a gangster commits crime against a public servant or his family members the imprisonment shall not be less than 3 years, with fine.
Also, if a public servant is found to have given any sort of help to a gangster at any point of an offence, or does not take action against him, he may be imprisoned upto 10 years with fine.
- RULES OF EVIDENCE- Section 4 lays down special rules of evidence. It states that while hearing a case against any gangster, the Court may take into account any previous action taken against him under Sections 107, 108, 109 or 110 of the CrPC, or any episode of preventive detention or if he was ever externed under the Uttar Pradesh Control of Goondas Act, 1970.
Further, any disproportionate assets or properties for which the gangster cannot account for shall be assumed to have been a benefit of his illegal activities.
It also entails that any instance of kidnapping or abduction by a gangster shall be assumed to have been committed for ransom and the Court may conduct ex-parte proceedings with witnesses against such a gangster with recording of reasons.
- SPECIAL COURTS- Section 5 lays down that if there is a need for speedy justice, the State Government may, with opinion of the Chief Justice of the High Court, establish special courts and appoint Judges and Additional Judges to preside over these cases.
This Court has precedence over any other Court’s proceedings against the accused person.
Section 7 gives competent jurisdiction to these special courts to try all cases relating to any offence committed under this Act. It further gives these Courts the power to transfer such cases which are within its jurisdiction, take evidence and re-examine witnesses that have already been examined by the prior Court. Further, Section 8 gives these Courts the power to try the accused for any other offence he has committed alongwith the offence under this Act.
The Act further provides for appointment of Public Prosecutors, Additional Public Prosecutors and even Special Public Prosecutors.
- PROCEDURE AND POWERS OF SPECIAL COURTS– Special Courts have the power to take cognizance of any offence committed by a Gangster even if the case has not been committed to trial yet. Such cognizance can be taken on complaint of facts of the case or on police report. Further, if an offence for which punishment is less than 3 years of imprisonment, the Court may conduct a summary trial for it.
But it has been provided that in case of summary trials in this section, the Court shall pass a punishment for imprisonment upto 2 years only. Further, the Court has special powers to grant pardon in the offence to any person directly concerned with the case who makes full disclosure to his knowledge regarding the evidence.
These Courts are deemed to have the power of Court of Sessions in all matters.
A special court can also transfer cases to regular courts in case it feels that it does not have the jurisdiction to try a case.
- PROTECTION OF WITNESSES– Section 11 makes special provision for protection of identities and addresses of all witnesses in cases under this Act and in camera proceedings for all matters except where Public Prosecutor calls for open court proceedings.
In case of contravention of this provision, the offender can be subjected to imprisonment upto 1 year with fine.
- ATTACHMENT OF PROPERTY- Section 14 gives special powers to the District Magistrate to attach the property of any offender if he has reason to believe that such property is a result of the gangster activities of the person. He may even appoint an Administrator to administer the properties.
But the person has three months from the date of knowledge of such attachment to show how he acquired the said property.
Further, if no action is taken under Section 15, the District Magistrate may refer the matter to the Court having jurisdiction of the offence. And if the order of the Magistrate under Section 14(1) or 15(2) aggrieves anyone, he/ she may approach the Court for the same.
The Court trying the case shall have the powers of a Civil Court under the CPC.
After hearing the case, the Court may order release, attachment, confiscation or delivery of the property to the requisite person entitled to it.
- APPEAL– Any judgment or order of the Court under this Act shall be appealable.
PERSONS BOOKED UNDER THIS ACT
Other than the above mentioned incidents, there have been various instances where people other than gangsters have been booked under the Act. Some of them are:
- In January, 2019 the UP Police booked five suspected members of the land mafia who illegally sold flood-prone land near the Yamuna River to susceptible buyers.
- After the coming into power of the Yogi government in 2017, around 600 people allegedly belonging to land mafia, liquor mafia, rogue builders have been booked under the Act for carrying out anti-social activities in the State. The administration ordered freezing of their bank accounts and attachment of their properties to ensure stoppage in their illicit activities.
- In 2015, a person named Juned Ahmad was charged under the 1986 Act for committing an offence under the U.P. Cow Slaughter Act, 1955. This was challenged in the Allahbad HC and the Court slammed the police authorities saying that they had no authority to invoke the Act as the person had already been charged under the 1955 Act.
- On 2 September, 2017 the S.D.M. of Sambhal, U.P. announced that any person who sacrificed a cow, buffalo, ox or camel from 2 to 4 September, 2017 on the occasion of Bakr-Id shall be booked under the Act and convicted with immediate effect.
The U.P. Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986 has been a controversy ever since it was enacted and in the news constantly for its unprecedented misuse by the police officials in Uttar Pradesh. Even the Allahbad High Court cut down its legs in its judgment indirectly, but to no avail (1986).
Most of the offences being committed in U.P. are brought under the scrutiny of this Act. The above instances clearly show the unscrupulous use of this Act by the police authorities. The Act may be amended with due consideration to correct its discrepencies but it’ll still have loopholes for miscreants to take undue advantage of!
- 2013 SCC Online All 13925. ↑
- Section 19(1). ↑
- Section 12. ↑
- Section 9. ↑
- Section 10. ↑
- Section 13. ↑
- Section 15. ↑
- Section 16. ↑
- Section 17. ↑
- Section 18. ↑