Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda has recommended that the proposed Punjab Control of Organised Crime Act (PCOCA) be repealed three years after its enactment. The Act gives extraordinary powers to police, and there is a concern that it could be misused, including to settle political scores.The Punjab government has made a case for the legislation as essential to break what it asserts is a growing nexus between gangsters and Sikh radical groups. The Act was initially proposed by the previous SAD-BJP government, but was shelved over reservations, including by then BJP minister Madan Mohan Mittal, that a confessional statement made before a Superintendent of Police under the proposed legislation could be misused to unleash political
The proposal was revived after Congress formed the government and Amarinder Singh took over as Chief Minister. The matter was referred to a Cabinet sub-committee comprising of Congress ministers Brahm Mohindra, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Charanjit Singh Channi. Advocate General Atul Nanda was also asked to give his comments on the proposed Act.
In a bid to allay concerns, Nanda is learnt to have also given the opinion that a review committee and an advisory committee be set up under the Act. Sources said Nanda has proposed that both the committees be headed by a sitting or retired high court judge and not by any officer from bureaucracy or police. “Each and every case under PCOCA will have to be sent to advisory committee to ensure that Act was not misused,” said sources.
AG has advised that there should be a sunset clause and the Act be repealed three years after the enactment.
“The proposed Act is a special Act which will give special powers to police. Three years is enough time to break the nexus of organised syndicate,” said a functionary privy to the developments over PCOCA. The AG’s opinion was also sought on a clause relating to “Authorisation of interception of wire, electronic or oral communication”.
Sources said Nanda had recommended removal of this clause from the proposed Act since there was “already a provision under the Indian Telegraph Act for authorisation of interception of wire, electronic or oral communication as proposed in the Act”.
“AG has sent his comments. We have also sought comments from the Director General of Police. The committee will meet and discuss the issue,” minister Brahm Mohindra said.
However, the PCOCA ordinance is unlikely to be on agenda of Punjab Cabinet that meets on Friday. A detailed draft of the Act would be prepared by the Home department once the Cabinet sub-committee gives its nod.
Though PCOCA, modelled on a similar law in Maharashtra (MCOCA), was mooted during the SAD-BJP regime, SAD-controlled SGPC is among those opposed to PCOCA.
Recently, SGPC executive committee ridiculed the proposal saying that earlier special acts like National Security Act, Maintenance of Internal Security Act and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention)
Act were “only used against the minorities”.
“There are already sufficient legislations. The need is to have the will power to implement those,” SGPC president Kirpal Singh Badungar had stated after the meeting.
A Punjab government functionary, however, said that the Act was the “need of hour” and it would be ensured that it has required “checks and balances”.
The recent arrests in the targeted killings of RSS leaders and activists and a Christian priest in Punjab has bolstered the government’s justification for PCOCA. In fact, Amarinder Singh government is in the process of enacting other crime-related legislation.
With no imminent Assembly session, a set of draft ordinances are scheduled to be placed Cabinet meeting on Friday. These include ordinances on an anti-terror Special Operations Group and Punjab Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property Act 2017. Draft ordinances for separating police investigation from law and order duty in police stations and for abolishing the four police zones and restructuring the system into seven police ranges are also likely to be put up before the Cabinet on Friday.