Opposition parties have come together to oppose the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organized Crime Act, 2017 (UPCOCA) introduced by the State’s BJP government. They say it could potentially be used as a tool to suppress rivals, settle political vendetta and target specific communities.
The proposed law was tabled in the Assembly on Wednesday, after it was approved by the State Cabinet last week. The UPCOCA was drafted by the BJP government after an “intensive study” of the stringent MCOCA in Maharashtra.
While the Yogi Aditynath government has described the proposed law as a remedy against organised crime, the Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati demanded its rollback, claiming it could be used “as a political weapon” to “oppress” the poor, Dalits, OBCs and religious minorities.
The four-time former Chief Minister alleged that the BJP government was already targeting and picking out members of specific communities in its drive against mafias and goondas. Innocent Dalits, OBCs and Muslims were being made victims of “hate and oppression” through the “vindictive and casteist” policy of the BJP government and put behind bars in false cases, she said.
Incidentally, a similar law was passed by Uttar Pradesh government during Ms. Mayawati’s rule in 2007-08, but it was withdrawn after the then President Pratibha Patil refused to give it her assent.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav also opposed the law, saying it was only being brought to “deceive the people” and “intimidate leaders of other political parties.”
“First the CM said law and order would improve after encounters. But it only got worse. Now they are saying UPCOCA. This is to deceive the people...UPCOCA will not improve law and order,” he said, recalling the recent murder of a former BJP MLA’s son in the heart of Lucknow.
The UPCOCA law would give special powers to the police to arrest offenders and members of the crime syndicates. Under the Act, the State would be empowered to seize the property of such people after taking the consent of a special court constituted to hear the cases. Properties acquired through illegal activities and organised crime would also be seized.
Some of the crimes defined under the UPCOCA are: land grab [government and non-state property], illegal mining, manufacture and sale of illegal medicines and illicit liquor, money laundering, wildlife smuggling, extortion, abduction syndicate, hafta collection, murder and conspiracy to murder and white-collar offences.
If found guilty, offenders would face a minimum jail term of three years and a maximum of life imprisonment or even death sentence. The accused will not be granted bail for six months after the arrest. The UPCOCA has 28 provisions in addition to the Gangsters Act, the existing law against organised crime in U.P.