Organised Crime is a crime which involves an act committed by two or more individuals as a joint venture in a systematic manner. It is usually carried on by gang members or people in an association and they help each other out and commit crimes in mutual cooperation with one another. Thus, it can be a group of individuals who has a corporate structure whose primary objective is to obtain money by doing illegal activities. Since these acts are committed by individuals who act as a group, it is often know as gang crimes or commonly called as organised crime. Organised crime thus refers a group of usually powerful families which form a mafia to engage in criminal activities.
Characteristics Of Gang Crimes
• Their illegal acts are usually conspiratorial. They attempt or actually commit crimes which have a sense of violence and intimidation.
• Though they commit acts which are highly illegal, however the manner is quite sophisticated.
• They are highly meticulous, systematic and methodical.
• They insulate their leadership from direct involvement in crime.
• They are highly powerful people in the society and often partake in politics.
• The ultimate goal of any gang crime is the economic gain. This can be gained through, drugs, gambling, loan sharking, money laundering etc.
Law in Relation to Organised Crime
Organised gangs commit the same crimes which are committed by ordinary criminals, like kidnapping, extortion and murder. They also provide the public with illicit liquor, drugs, gambling dens, prostitutes and weapons and foreign exchange when needed. All these offences are covered by the various laws like the IPC and other Special Acts. Therefore these offences, when reported to the police are registered under the relevant laws and taken up for investigation. Some cases do get detected and arrests are made and the culprits are prosecuted.
Law in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 relating to Organised Crime
Section 120-A of the Indian Penal Code 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 merely incidental to that object”.
Section 120-B of the India Penal Code provides 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.
Unless the gang bosses are prosecuted and convicted there is not going to be any check on the organised gangs. The use of Section120A&B or Section 114 (Criminal Conspiracy and Abetment) does not meet the requirements of the courts to obtain a conviction as it is next to impossible to prove the existence of a conspiracy between the gang boss and the actual offender. Similarly it is not possible to prove the abetment of the offence by the gang boss as there are no written orders or any records and all instructions are oral and passed on from one level of command to the other till the hit man gets the order from his immediate superior.
The IPC also provides for provisions of dacoity. This is one of the oldest form of crimes in India and it is committed for monetary and pecuniary purposes. It often further involves looting or extortion. Dacoity has been defined under section 391 of the Code.
“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.”
Thus, if the offence of robbery has been committed by five or more people, it is called as dacoity. This offence is punishable under Section 395 of the code and it provides of a life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years. Other offences under the code are:
• Section 399 which provides punishment for the preparation to commit dacoity.
• Section 402 which provides punishment assembly for the purpose of committing dacoity.
• Section 400 which provides punishment for the act of belonging to a ‘gang’ of persons associated for the purpose of habitually committing dacoity.
• Section 364-A which provides punishment kidnapping for ransom etc.
Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act
The use of TADA was resorted to by the police as this Act has a wide definition of a Terrorist Act and the organised gang crimes could easily be brought under the purview of this Act. However there was a certain amount of misuse of this Act by the police as it was used in ordinary cases also. The Act provides the police with some advantages in dealing with gang offences as under:
1. Gang crimes fit into the definition of terrorist act as per TADA.
2. Confession to a police officer of the rank of SP, can be recorded by him.
3. Investigation beyond 180 days without putting charge sheet and accused remain in custody
4. No bail without hearing the public prosecutor and after the hearing still the court comes to the conclusion that no case is made out.
National Security Act, 1980
The Act allows the Central Government or the State Government or any of the officers thereby who are authorised by the government to detain an individual with a view to prevent him from doing any harm. Thus, it allows for preventive detention of an individual by the state. The detention order is generally issued for a time period of one year. This mechanism has been brought in place to ensure that the individual does not act in a manner which threatens the security of the country or it is prejudicial to the defence forces or hampers the relations with other countries. This order has to be approved by a board which is chaired by a High Court Judge. This is an advisory board and must act in a manner which balances the freedom of the individual and the interests of country. This Act is used primarily for terrorists, anti-national individuals and gangsters who have an apprehension to flee the country. The detention under the order is an executive action and there is no trial.
Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act
This Act is primarily aimed at controlling the illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Narcotic and Psychotropic substances have a grave hazard to the health and well-being of the people of any society. Gangs and individuals strike at the foundations of effect of the national economy. The Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1988, thus has provisions which allow for detention of such persons who engage in business of these items. The Act allows the Central Government or the State Government or any of the officers thereby who are authorised by the government to detain an individual with a view to prevent him from doing any harm by passing an order. This detention is usually of one year but in certain situations it can be extendable to two years.
Reasons for poor rate of Conviction
Very few of them get convicted. The offender who gets convicted is a mere pawn in the game, a small time crook employed by the gang bosses to commit an offence. His conviction is compensated by grant of money, free legal protection and full financial support to the family in addition to a comfortable period in jail. Therefore in real terms the criminal justice system has not achieved any success by the conviction. Another criminal replaces the convict and the crimes continue.
1. There is hardly any evidence of witnesses available because of the reluctance of the witnesses to give evidence in court for fear of reprisals by the gangs.
2. The criminals escape after the commission of the offence and go to far away safe houses and by the time they are arrested sufficient time has elapsed which enables them to destroy evidence and to scare away witnesses. If the witness is adamant he may even be eliminated.
3. There is enough money available with the gangs to provide the accused with the best legal aid and even to manipulate court records etc.
4. In case the gang boss is also charge sheeted no evidence is available to connect him with the crime as there are a number of layers in the chain of command between the boss and the actual perpetrator of the crime. The bosses are careful to avoid any direct connection with the real culprit. The underlings operate under the ‘need to know’ basis and are generally unaware of the plans and activities of the gang boss and are unable to divulge any important information to the police on interrogation.
5. Because of the ease with which bail is granted by the courts there is no pressure in the courts to expedite the matter and therefore the case continues for years on end. The prosecution loses interest, the witnesses forget facts, evidence gets destroyed and the cases end in acquittal.
Organised crime is very important problem in the country. Due to the sheer vastness and increasing dimensions, the resolution and legal mechanism to control it is the need of the hour. The states must adopt an institutionalised co-ordinating mechanism between the various states to keep track of the gang crimes. Further, it is clear that the ball is in the judicial courts to decide whether it would want to dispense justice or adhere to the rules of evidence and leave the dispensation of justice to the man in the street to wield his own weapon. Thus, fight against organised crime though a formidable task should not be left alone only to police but to all the wings of the state.