After an objection by the Ministry of Information and Technology (IT), the controversial Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GCTOC) Bill, 2015 has been returned to the state. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which sent the Bill for an inter-ministerial consultation, returned the Bill with the objections raised by the IT ministry. The development means the Bill will not be sent for Presidential assent and cannot become a law yet. For any Bill passed by a state assembly on issues contravening Central laws, it has to have a Presidential assent to become a law.
It was on March 31, that the Gujarat Assembly passed the Bill again, after it was rejected thrice by two former Presidents- late APJ Abdul Kalam in 2004 and later on by Pratibha Patil in 2008 and 2009. The Bill was first sent for Centre’s approval in 2003 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat.
This time the IT ministry objected to the provision in the Bill, which “allows authorisation of interception of telephonic conversations and their admissibility as evidence in the court of law.”
The Bill was first introduced as the GUJCOC Bill in 2003, with provisions like increasing the period to file chargesheet from 90 to 180 days and also strict conditions for granting bail to an accused. The Bill was rejected by Late Mr. Kalam on the grounds that the clause pertaining to “interception of communication be removed.”
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power then and senior Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader LK Advani held the home ministry portfolio. As per norms, the President has to go with the advice given by the council of ministers, in this case represented by the MHA.
“It has been sent back to the state government with the objections raised by the IT ministry, it will be reconsidered only if they address those concerns,” said a senior home ministry official.
One of the provisions on which objections have been raised by the Centre is also Section 25 of the Bill, which makes the government immune from any legal action for “anything which is in good faith done or intended to be done in pursuance of this Act.”
While reintroducing the Bill in March, the state home minister Rajnikant Patel had said the legislation was required for the safety and security of the residents of Gujarat, as it shares its border with Pakistan.