The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime (GUJCTOC) has been unanimously passed in the assembly. State Minister of Home Harsh Sanghavi told the Gujarat legislature on Wednesday that the state police had detained more than 740 people and seized drugs worth Rs 6,500 crore in the previous year. The minister stated this while acknowledging that the addition of drug-related charges in the Gujarat Terrorism and Organized Crime Control (GUJCTOC) Bill required further discussion.
The revised GUJCTOC Bill, which abolished gambling from the Act’s list of offences, was unanimously approved on Wednesday, the first day of the two-day Assembly session. The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime Act, 2015 has removed the words “terrorist act” and “gambling” from certain of its sections. “The terrorist act has been defined under Section 2 (h). Section 2 contains a repetition of this (e). The phrase “terrorist act” is thus deleted from 2 (e). We are not removing any action against terror (contained in the Act),” the minister told the House.
He said that the changes were made “to make certain provisions more meaningful and to make them easy to interpret so that no provisions are misinterpreted during the implementation of the said Act, resulting in the unnecessary hassle to the persons in the state of Gujarat.”
Sanghavi’s comments came as Congress MLAs urged expanding the Act’s scope to include drug-related offences, extortion, land grabbing, contract killings, economic offences, cyber crimes, and human trafficking for prostitution.
The minister was urged to visit Sindhu Bhavan Road (in Ahmedabad city) on a Sunday by Congress MLA Virji Thummar, who was speaking about how widely accessible drugs are in Ahmedabad. MLA Baldev Thakor brought up the alleged criminal activities at several spas and beauty salons, while Congress MLA Gyasuddin Sheikh noted that drugs were widely accessible at pan stores and in pan masala pouches.
The Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022, which was issued while the House wasn’t in session, is intended to be replaced by the modified Bill. It defines “organised crime” as “any continuing criminal activity, including extortion, land-grabbing, contract-killing, economic offences, cybercrime with serious repercussions, conducting large-scale gambling rackets, a human-trafficking racket for prostitution or ransom by an individual, singularly or jointly, either as a member of an organised crime syndicate or on behalf of a such syndicate, by use of violence or fear of violence or intimidation or coercion or other unlawful means.”
The Bill specifies that if the Special Court learns that the accused was out on bail for an offence under this Act, on the day of the alleged offence, bail will not be granted to him.
“If any person on behalf of a member of an organized crime syndicate is, or at any time after the commencement of the Act, has owned movable or immovable property which he cannot satisfactorily account for, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than three years but which may extend to imprisonment for 10 years and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than Rs one lakh and such property shall also be liable for attachment and forfeiture.”
Meanwhile, strict implementation of GUJCTOC has helped neutralise gangs in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Patan and Saurashtra, said Sanghavi. The minister listed the gangs that were dealt with by GUJCTOC and their names. These include the Nazir Vora gang in Ahmedabad, the Aslam Bodiya gang in Vadodara, the Vichia gang in Saurashtra, the Asif Tomato and Sajid Kothari gang in Surat, and the Zilia gang in Patan. The Sajid Kothari gang had built illegally on public property, which was demolished, according to the minister, who also claimed that guns and reproductions of land records were found with the Patan, India-based Zilia gang.