L. Srikrishna

Till September 15, over 250 `habitual offenders' sent to jail

CHENNAI: Till September 15, over 250 persons classified as `habitual offenders' have been detained under the Goondas Act in the city.

This essentially means that a person is getting detained under the Act almost every day. As per the Act, the maximum detention period is one year.

The city police claim that the Goondas Act helps to control the law-and-order situation and enables sterner action against other offenders.

The city, officers note, witnessed about 10 police encounters during 2001-05, which largely discouraged the gangsters from operating here or forced them to migrate to other places.

Speaking to The Hindu , a senior officer said that prohibition offences have been nearly eliminated in the city. This business was once active and well organised. The bootleggers transported ID arrack from neighbouring State in large quantities. This has been stopped and violators were being booked under the Goondas Act.

Similarly, in a police encounter five years ago when a noted gangster from Mumbai was gunned down in the city, it sent a warning message to the underworld.

Despite limitations like shortage of manpower, extended hours of work and lack of basic facilities, the police continued to keep the law and order under control, he maintained.

However, sources within the department say that other indicators suggest that the anti-social elements are active in key areas. Self-styled gangs operated in real estate deals, extortion from the trading community, and associated themselves with money lenders who gave loans at usurious rates especially to film makers and lastly played the role of mediators in vacating tenants from landed properties by illegal means. While the real estate boom is welcome to property developers and investors, it is a considerable menace for many individuals who are not interested in selling their properties.

Recently, a man complained to the city police about the threatening calls he received from a gang, which allegedly forced him to part with his property on Old Mahabalipuram Road. The property is worth around Rs one crore. If he failed to part with it, the gang said it would get the property registered for Rs 30 lakh by forging documents.

The other day, the City Crime Branch police arrested a financier on charges of collecting huge interest from a cine actor. The petitioner claimed that she was threatened with dire consequences, if she took the case to the police. Despite settling Rs 13.75 lakh for a loan of Rs seven lakh, she alleged that the financier demanded Rs. 30 lakh.

A petitioner from T.Nagar recently stated that he was given an ultimatum to vacate his house by a rowdy gang. Seeking police protection, he approached the custodians of law, but he had to move out finally.