What is Organized Crime?
Organized Crime can be defined as unlawful activity committed by members of a highly organized association working in a systematic and disciplined manner. The members act together as a group or individually on the behalf of the group; hence it is known as gang crimes or commonly called Organized Crime. They possess a corporate-like structure with their boss at the top. They work in cooperation with one another. The main objective behind their illegal activities is to obtain economic gain.
Organized Crime can be referred to as a flexible and changing phenomenon. Their activities are highly illegal; however, their manner is quite systematic and sophisticated. The boss or leader of the gang is a highly powerful person in society and may also have political connections. The gangs are often engaged in the supply of illegal goods and services such as gambling, money laundering, drugs and narcotics, prostitution, and other unlawful activities.
Laws in relation to Organized Crime
Organized Crime gangs commit the same crime as commit by any ordinary criminal. Some of the crimes committed by them are drug abuse and drug trafficking, smuggling, money laundering, terrorism and narco-terrorism contract killings, kidnapping ransom, illegal immigration. India does not have any specific national legislation on organized crime. However, the offences committed by them are covered under various laws such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and other Special laws.
Provisions in Indian Penal Code, 1860 in relation to Organized Crime:
Section 120-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines criminal conspiracy as:
“When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done an illegal act, or an act which is not illegal by illegal means. Such an agreement is designated as criminal conspiracy: provided that no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance thereof”.[i]
Section 120-B of the India Penal Code lays down for punishment for criminal conspiracy:
“Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence. Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.”[ii]
Section 391 of the Indian Penal Code defines dacoity as:
“When five or more persons conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of Persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery, and persons present and aiding such commission or attempt amount to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding is said to commit dacoity.”[iii]
When the offence of robbery is committed by five or more persons, it is known as dacoity. This is one of the oldest forms of crime in India. It is punishable under Section 395 of IPC which provides for imprisonment for life, or with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may be extended upto 10 years.[iv]
Section 399 of the act lays down punishment for the preparation to commit dacoity. Section 402 provides punishment of assembly for the purpose of committing dacoity. Section 400 of IPC criminalizes the act of belonging to a gang of persons associated with it for the purpose of committing dacoity habitually. Section 364-A has been inserted later by the Parliament and provides for the punishment of kidnapping for ransom.
Special Legislations in relation to Organized Crime
The National Security Act, 1980
The National Security Act provides for the Central or State Government or any of the officers thereby authorized by the government for preventive detention of an individual with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defense of India or to the friendly relations with foreign powers. The detention order is usually issued for a period of one year. This Act has been enforced to ensure that there is no threat to national security or friendly relations with other countries. The order of detention needs to be approved by a board chaired by a Judge of the High Court. This board is an advisory body that acts as a balance between the freedom of individuals and the security of the nation. Detention is an executive action and the case does not go for trial in court. This Act is primarily used against terrorists, anti-national elements, and hard-core gangsters.
The Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
This Act is primarily aimed to control the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances pose a major threat to the health and well-being of consumers. The Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act allows the Central or the State Government or any officer designated by the government for the detention of any person engaged in the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. The detention period is one year, however, in certain situations, it can be extended upto two years.
The Union Government of India has enacted various legislations to deal with the specific facets of organized crime. Some of them are the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, the Public Gambling Act, 1867, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, the Customs Act, 1962, and so on.
Ordinances Passed by State Governments
The State Government of Maharashtra enacted the “Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act” in February 1999 as an ordinance to combat terrorism and organized crime. It came into force on 24th of February, 1999 and its jurisdiction extends to the whole state of Maharashtra.[v] This Ordinance defines ‘organized crime’ and ‘organized crime syndicate’ and differentiates them from other ordinary crimes in order to identify and deal with them separately. It also provides for the constitution of Special Courts dealing with the cases of organized crimes.[vi] This ordinance provides for the punishment for different organized crimes under Section 3 which are as follows:
i. Committing offence of organized crime that results in death shall be punishable with death or imprisonment for life along with a minimum fine of Rs. 1 lac [Section 3(1)]
ii. Conspiring, Aiding or abetting, or knowingly facilitating the commission of organized crime or helping in the preparation of such acts, shall be punished with imprisonment for a minimum period of 5 years along with fine of Rs. 5 lacs [Section 3(2)]
iii. Giving shelter or concealing any member of organized crime syndicate shall be punishable with imprisonment of not less than 5 years and a minimum fine of Rs. 5 lacs [Section 3(3)]
iv. Becoming a member of an organized crime shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than 5 years and a minimum fine of Rs. 5 lacs [Section 3(4)]
v. Holding or looking after any property derived or obtained from commission of organized crime or property in possession on behalf of organized crime shall be punished with imprisonment of not less than 3 years and a minimum fine of Rs. 2 lacs [Section 3(5)]
The Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 was enacted to prevent and control the unlawful activities of organized crime gangs. Following the same path, the State governments of Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka have passed similar ordinances to combat organized crime in their respective states.
Loopholes in the Laws against Organized Crime
In order to deal with the problem of organized crime in an effective manner, reforms need to be introduced in the Criminal Justice System of our country. There are various loopholes in the manner and provisions dealing with organized crime. These need to be addressed at the earliest.
India lacks any specific law to combat the problem of organized crime. The existing relevant laws prove to be inadequate as they target individuals and not the whole organized crime gang. As organized crime gangs work hierarchically with the leader or boss at the top, it becomes difficult to obtain evidence against them. The Police fail to track the chain and the boss also has powerful political connections due to which they are insulated from the enforcement of the law against them.
There is always a lack of witnesses for the crimes committed by organized gangs. No one dares to raise his voice in fear of life. Also, there is no provision for the protection of witnesses against organized crime. Most of the states face resource crisis and are not in a position to establish separate agencies to deal with organized crime. There is a lack of training and resource facilities for investigation purposes.
Organized Crime is an old and deep-rooted evil in our country. Due to the vast dimensions of organized crime, involvement of politicians, and lack of specific law, it becomes difficult for the government and other concerned authorities to combat this problem. An effective legal mechanism is the need of the hour in order to keep the track of organized crime and take proper action against them. The State Government of Maharashtra has set an example in this regard by enforcing the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999. The Central Government should also look upon its provisions and pass national legislation with the aim of controlling or preventing organized crime and for proper disposal of cases against organized crime. It should include provisions for action against the whole organized gang and not only any individual. In this way only, India can fight against the Organised Crime prevalent throughout the country.
[i] Section 120-A of Indian Penal Code, 1860 [ii] Section 120B of Indian Penal Code, 1860 [iii] Section 391 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 [iv] Section 395 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 [v] Section 1 of Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 [vi] Section 5 of Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999