In a major development, President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent to the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, an anti-terror legislation passed by the Gujarat legislative assembly in the year 2016. One of the main features of the Act is that it allows intercepted telephonic conversation to be adduced as legitimate, admissible evidence before the Court. Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Pradeepsinh Jadeja has announced that the Bill has been signed into law by the President of India.
What makes this a significant event is the fact that earlier a bill named as the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime (GUJCOC), Bill failed to get the Presidential assent three times since 2004, when the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, was the Gujarat Chief Minister. The Bill was once again introduced in 2015, this time renamed as the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill. Even though the Bill was renamed, it retained the key provision allowing intercepted telephonic conversation to be produced as evidence.
Yet another highlight of the anti-terror legislation is that it makes any confession made before a police officer an admissible piece of evidence. This is a departure from the general rule of evidence in India that any confession made before a police officer or his custody is inadmissible, unless it is made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate, or the information deposed results in the discovery of a fact, only that much information which results in the discovery of a new fact, is admissible. This makes sense given that ordinary rules of evidence cannot be expected to sufficiently combat terrorists and other such criminals. Terrorism is not an ordinary threat to society and as such departures have to be made in order to enact adequately strong provisions for combating this threat.
Gujarat Home Minister, Jadeja said that the provisions of the anti-terror law will prove crucial in tackling terrorism and organised crimes such as contract killing, ponzi schemes, narcotics trade and extortion rackets. He said, “The dream of PM Modi was finally fulfilled today.” Jadeja added, “One of the key features of this bill is that the intercepted telephonic conversations would now be considered as a legitimate evidence. This bill also provides for the creation of a special court as well as the appointment of special public prosecutors. We can now attach properties acquired through organised crimes. We can also cancel the transfer of properties..”
The President nod to this anti-terror legislation passed by the state of Gujarat illustrates BJP’s resolve to give teeth to the enforcement agencies in their fight against terrorism and to decisively defeat the menace. In line with this approach of zero tolerance against terrorism, the Modi government also introduced the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Bill 2019 in the Parliament this year, which was passed by both houses of the Parliament later on. The Amendment Act provides for empowerment of the central government to designate individuals as terrorists. The Amendment came as a major boost to the powers of the central government to crack down on terrorists, especially when earlier only groups or organisations could be declared as terrorists. The United States of America also lauded and backed the move taken by the Modi government in the form of UAPA Amendment stating that the new law expands possibilities for joint US-India efforts to combat the scourge of terrorism.
The manner in which the anti-terror law in Gujarat which has finally received the Presidential assent was blocked during the UPA era when the present Prime Minister was the Gujarat CM, really captures the difference between the UPA regime and the NDA regime. Modi government had promised zero tolerance approach towards terrorism and is actually living up to its promise. It remains firmly on the course of undoing the blunders committed during the UPA era.