President Pranab Mukherjee returned Thursday the controversial Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, 2015 to the Union Home Ministry, seeking clarifications on some of its provisions. The Bill passed by the Gujarat assembly has been turned down by two Presidents earlier.
On March 31, 2015, the Gujarat assembly passed the stringent GCTOC Bill, retaining controversial provisions that had thrice earlier led to previous such Bills being rejected by the President. Minor changes apart, it was more or less the same as the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC) Bill, first introduced in 2003 by the then state government of Narendra Modi.
In September 2015, the GCTOC Bill was cleared by the Home Ministry and sent to the President for his assent. Officials said the Bill was pending assent to become a law since some aspects were in conflict with central laws.
“The Home Ministry will provide additional inputs to the President after getting them from the Gujarat government,” a Ministry official said.
The Ministry has informed the President that it will submit a re-worked Bill for his approval.
In July 2015, the Centre sent back the GCTOC Bill to the state government after certain objections were raised by the Ministry of Information and Technology (IT).
The IT Ministry had objected to a provision in the Bill which allowed authorisation of interception of telephone conversations and their admissibility as evidence before a court of law.
The Gujarat government rejected the objections raised by the IT Ministry. In its reply, the Gujarat government cited subjects mentioned in the Concurrent List under which the Centre and the State share the responsibility of formulating criminal law and criminal procedure.
The GCTOC Bill, 2015 made only minor changes in the GUJCOC Bill, adding the word “terrorism” in the name. It retained clauses such as permitting admissibility of evidence collected through interception of telephone calls of an accused or through confessions made before an investigating officer, in a court of law.
The Bill retained the clause allowing 180 days for filing of a chargesheet in a case as against 90 days, and laid down strict conditions for grant of bail to the accused.
The 2003 Bill was rejected in 2004 by then President A P J Abdul Kalam with the suggestion that the clause relating to interception of communication be removed.
The state assembly passed the GUJCOC Bill twice after that. Former President Pratibha Patil also refused to clear the Bill, seeking more changes,including deletion of the provision allowing confessions before a police officer as evidence in court.
The Gujarat government, however, ignored Patil’s suggestions and cleared the Bill for the third time in 2009, which was rejected again.
The GCTOC Bill, 2015, while reintroducing the provision allowing interception of communication and retaining the one relating to confessions made before a police officer, only proposed that the officer concerned be of the rank of Superintendent of Police and above.
Back and forth
* 2003: Modi government in Gujarat introduces GUJCOC Bill on the lines of Maharashtra’s MCOCA. Cleared by assembly, sent for ratification.
* 2004: President A P J Abdul Kalam returns Bill objecting to clause on communication interception.
* 2008: Gujarat assembly clears Bill after deleting interception clause. Returned again.
* 2009: President Pratibha Patil returns it after assembly clears it again. Objects to clause allowing admissibility of confessional statements made before a police officer during trial.
* 2015: Gujarat makes minor changes, renames Bill to GCTOC by adding the word “terrorism”, sends it to Centre for approval. IT Ministry objects, Bill sent back.