After going all out on expediting Punjab Control of Organised Crime Act, (PCOCA), Punjab government put it on the back-burner last year. However, at a recent meeting of the five northern states on the need to join hands for the war on drugs, the law was discussed. While the future of the law in Punjab looks uncertain, it seems both Haryana and Himachal will implement the same soon.
What is PCOCA?
PCOCA is an improved version of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. According to the draft of the law, a confession statement made before a DIG-rank officer is admissible in court. The confession may further be ratified by an ADGP-rank officer. Currently, a statement made before the police does not hold any value in the court. Also, PCOCA is more stringent than MCOCA as the former provides for detention without bail up to one year, while Maharashtra’s law allows detention up to six months only.
Why was Congress government in Punjab batting for it strongly?
After the Congress government took over, Punjab was dealing with lawlessness created by gangsters. Soon after taking over, Amarinder announced that they would have PCOCA enacted so that the gangsters feared the law. The draft was taken to Cabinet meeting in April 2017 but several Cabinet ministers opposed it saying it could be misused for political vendetta. Amarinder had constituted a Cabinet Sub Committee headed by senior Cabinet Minister Brahm Mohindra to submit its report. The report was never submitted. Mohindra now says the government has reined in most of the gangsters and there is no need of a draconian law like PCOCA.
Why is it the police versus political leaders on PCOCA?
Punjab Police believes a stringent Act like PCOCA can rein in the gangsters, who are reported by intelligence agencies to have links with the drug peddlers and also Khalistani terrorists. They feel there should be strong laws to rein in such gangsters. But, political leaders think the police in Punjab is already very powerful. Such laws would mean giving them absolute power. They could arrest anyone, get a confessional statement recorded and then get him convicted. They fear it could be used for political vendetta when the governments change in the state. The police, on the other hand, says the DIG, who records the statement is a senior officer and another senior officer, an ADGP, has to ratify it. There are many checks and balances.
When did Punjab mull PCOCA?
The Act was a baby of former DGP Suresh Arora who wanted to introduce it during the previous SAD-BJP government. Then too the state was facing problems owing to gangsters. Former Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was the Home Minister of the state. He had brought the draft to the Cabinet in July 2016. But at that time also, the Cabinet ministers had opposed it as Punjab was going to Assembly polls in February 2017 and fears of its misuse for political vendetta were expressed. Later, soon after taking over, Amarinder had made it clear that his government would be enacting the law.
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