Gangsters Act – Conviction Can Take Place With Just One Offence In FIR If Accused Found To Be Member Of Gang - SC
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna upheld an order passed by the Allahabad High Court regarding the Appellant's conviction under the Gangsters Act, 1986 by opining that "There is no specific provision under the Gangsters Act, 1986 like the specific provisions under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 and the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime Act, 17 2015 that while prosecuting an accused under the Gangsters Act, there shall be more than one offence or the FIR/charge sheet".
Mr Divyesh Pratap Singh appeared on behalf of the Appellant. Mr Sanjay Kumar Tyagi appeared on behalf of the State and Mr Shuvodeep Roy appeared on behalf of the Complainant.
The Complainant alleged in the written report that her sister and her family members had a previous enmity with the Accused. The sister served at the designation of In-charge, DGC(Crl.) in the Court of the District Judge and while returning from her workplace on a scooty driven by a servant, a car rammed into the scooty. The Accused shouted with an intent to kill the servant as well, but then ran away on the arrival of people. The sister died in the hospital. While lodging the report with the police, the Complainant alleged that she apprehended the involvement of a prominent political figure in the conspiracy. On the basis of her report, a case under Section 147, 304, 504, 323, 506, 120-B IPC was registered against the accused persons.
Subsequently, a case under Sections 2/3 of the Gangsters Act, 1986 was registered against eight accused persons, and the cognizance of the same was taken by the Special Judge under the Gangsters Act.
In the course of investigation, it was revealed that the Appellant, her husband and another individual were also involved in the offence pertaining to the conspiracy of murder of deceased. Therefore, supplementary charge sheet was also filed against the aforesaid three Accused. Thereafter, an FIR for offences under Sections 2/3 of the Gangsters Act was registered against eleven Accused in all.
The Appellant filed a Writ Petition before the High Court under section 482 CrPC.
The High Court dismissed the Petition, refusing to quash the criminal proceedings under Sections 2/3 of the Gangsters Act. Aggrieved and dissatisfied, the Appellant moved before the Supreme Court.
The Counsel for the Appellant contended that by no stretch of imagination could the Appellant be said to be a Gangster and/or a member of a Gang, and that too solely on the basis of a single FIR/charge sheet and with respect to only a single murder. Further, it was contended that that she cannot be implicated in the FIR in question under the Gangsters Act solely on the basis of an isolated case, and that the Appellant could not be be said to be a habitual offender and she did not indulge in anti-social activities. The Counsel also argued that that once the Special Court took cognizance against eight persons, thereafter it was not open to implicate the present accused, who were charge sheeted subsequently for the offences under the Gangsters Act.
The Counsels for the State and for the Complainant contended that the provisions of the Gangsters Act were invoked after following due procedure under the Gangsters Act and after the gang chart was prepared and the same was approved by the higher authority as well as the District Magistrate. It was further argued that since the name of the Appellant and the other two Accused only surfaced at a later stage, they were charge sheeted subsequently.
It was submitted that it was revealed that the father of the Appellant had left behind huge immovable properties whose division was a chequered litigation, and that the deceased was the eldest daughter while the Complainant was the youngest. It was contended that the main Accused was the leader of the Gang involved, who had connived and hatched the conspiracy to kill the deceased with a view to make a pecuniary gain, while the Appellant was a member of that Gang and therefore liable to be prosecuted for the offences under the Gangsters Act. Further, the Counsel contended that even in case of a single FIR/charge sheet but with respect to anti-social activities mentioned in Section 2(b) of the Gangsters Act, there can be a prosecution under the Gangsters Act, and there is no bar.
The Supreme Court held that on a fair reading of the definitions of "Gang" and "Gangster" under the Gangsters Act, 1986 it could be deduced that even a single crime committed by a "Gang" is sufficient to implant the Gangsters Act on such members of the "Gang".
To that end, the Court opined that "considering the provisions under the Gangsters Act, 1986 as they are, even in case of a single offence/FIR/charge sheet, if it is found that the accused is a member of a 'Gang' and has indulged in any of the anti-social activities mentioned in Section 2(b) of the Gangsters Act, such as, by violence, or threat or show of violence, or intimidation, or coercion or otherwise with the object of disturbing public order or of gaining any undue temporal, pecuniary, material or other advantage for himself or any other person and he/she can be termed as 'Gangster' within the definition of Section 2(c) of the Act, he/she can be prosecuted for the offences under the Gangsters Act."
The Court noted that since the main Accused was a gang leader who hatched the criminal conspiracy along with other co-accused including the Appellant for a pecuniary benefit, and that the other co-Accused were already charge sheeted/prosecuted for the offence under the Gangsters Act, the Appellant and the other two co-accused being members of the "Gang" were also required to be prosecuted for the offences under the Gangsters Act.
Therefore, the Court opined that they were in agreement with the view taken by the High Court, and thereby dismissed the appeal.