Continuing Unlawful Activity For Gaining Advantages That Are Not Economic Or Pecuniary Is Also Organized Crime - SC
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Aniruddha Bose heard an appeal against an order passed by the Bombay High Courtin which the Supreme Court observed that continuing unlawful activity with the objective of gaining advantages other than economic or pecuniary is also an "organised crime" under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999.
In this case, the Complainant alleged that he was forcefully kidnapped and intimidated with a knife, and a ransom of Rs 20 Lakhs was demanded by the Accused. The Complainant further alleged that three of the Accused were known to him, one of which was the Appellant. The Complainant also alleged that the Accused asked him to give them papers of his ancestral property and hand over his shop, while also committing threatening actions against him.
The Additional Director General of Police and Commissioner of Police under Section 23(2) of the MCOCA sanctioned prosecution of the Appellant with 5 other Accused persons. The Appellant had approached the High Court to challenge these actions, and the High Court had disposed of the same. Aggrieved, the Appellant approached the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decided to examine the case on merits, before moving to the aspect of absconsion, as the Appellant had been declared as an "absconder" in terms of Section 82 CrPC and Section 20(3) MCOCA.
Looking at the objects and reasons for the enactment of MCOCA, the Supreme Court opined that "this enactment is for making special provisions for dealing with the menace of organised crime causing serious threat to the society. No doubt, the enactment makes stringent provisions with several extraordinary measures but, the peculiar nature of the mischief sought to be tackled, i.e., of organised crime, has obviously led to such extraordinary measures, particularly when the existing legal framework was found to be rather inadequate to control the menace."
Relying on cases such as State of Maharashtra & Ors. v. Lalit Somdatta Nagpal & Anr., the Supreme Court opined that the provisions of MCOCA need to be strictly construed and for their application, an unlawful activity has to fall within the periphery of organised crime. Interpreting the term "strict construction", the Court relied on the case of Balram Kumawat v. Union of India & Ors. and opined that the rule of strict construction of a penal statute or a special penal statute is not intended to put all the provisions in such a tight iron cast that they become practically unworkable, and thereby, the entire purpose of the law is defeated. It was further opined that strict adherence by the authorities concerned to the requirements of MCOCA also cannot be stretched beyond common sense and practical requirements in terms of the letter and spirit of the statute.
The Supreme Court also referred to Section 2(1)(e) of the MCOCA, which makes it clear that "organized crime" means any unlawful activity by an individual singly or jointly, either as a member of organised crime syndicate or on behalf of such syndicate, by use of violence or threat of violence or intimidation or coercion or other unlawful means.
While analyzing the requirement of the nature of the activity, i.e., its objective, the Court opined that the requirement of law is not limited to pecuniary benefits but could also be of "gaining undue economic or another advantage".
The Court referred to the cases alleged against the Appellant and noted that the crimes and unlawful activities were aimed at gaining pecuniary advantages or gaining supremacy and thereby, the Appellant's involvement clearly indicated other unwarranted advantages.
Therefore, the Court held that the appeal failed on merits.
With regard to the issue of absconsion, the Court held that since an absconder remains directly in conflict with the law, he deserves no concession or indulgence.
Therefore, the Court opined that all contentions urged on behalf of the Appellant were baseless, and therefore the appeal was dismissed.
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