Organised Crime is a crime which involves an act committed by two or more individuals as a joint venture in a systematic manner. It is usually carried on by gang members or people in an association and they help each other out and commit crimes in mutual cooperation with one another. Thus, it can be a group of individuals who has a corporate structure whose primary objective is to obtain money by doing illegal activities. Since these acts are committed by individuals who act as a group, it is often know as gang crimes or commonly called as organised crime. Organised crime thus refers a group of usually powerful families which form a mafia to engage in criminal activities.
Organised Crime possesses the following characteristics. Their illegal acts are usually conspiratorial. They attempt or actually commit crimes which have a sense of violence and intimidation. Though they commit acts which are highly illegal, however the manner is quite sophisticated. They are highly meticulous, systematic and methodical. They insulate their leadership from direct involvement in crime. They are highly powerful people in the society and often partake in politics. The ultimate goal of any gang crime is the economic gain. This can be gained through, drugs, gambling, loan sharking, money laundering etc.
Organised Crime in India: An Evolution
Through the evolutionary history of organised criminal gangs tends to find a pattern of development which is similar in most respects, whether it is India or the USA or any other country. The gangs generally start with one enterprising person who takes to crime and recruits a few underlings. He succeeds in making money through his chosen modus operandi, be it smuggling or bootlegging or any other criminal profession. Once he establishes himself in his area of operation, which is initially quite small, he manages to buy protection for himself and his henchmen by bribing the law enforcement agencies of his area, generally the local police station and local customs and excise staff. Once this stage is reached, the other small time criminals in the area flock around him and seek cover under his protective umbrella, This arrangement takes place either by these petty criminals joining his gang as regular members, or by regular payments of protection money and retaining their identity. Their area of operation is however confined to a limited area agreed to by both sides.
No criminal gang, however big or powerful can survive without police protection or police indifference. All gang bosses are aware of the police force or have a confrontation with them. They would prefer to win them over with their vast fortunes. However all policemen are not purchasable or dishonest, therefore the bosses have to find ways and means to neutralise such officers if they are to survive. The only body of men who can influence the police or force them into inaction are the politicians in power. Therefore they are the first targets of the gangs. A politician is basically a very insecure person as his wellbeing depends entirely on winning elections. He is willing to clutch at any straw when he has to face the electorate. In India votes can be garnered mostly by the following three methods. Firstly, the candidate should have such a high standing in society that the public votes for him without any hesitation. Such candidates are very rare today. The second alternative is to have enough money to buy the votes through vote brokers who are available all over the country, although they cannot be fully relied on. The third alternative is to terrorise the voters to vote for them, or to stay away from the voting booths so that their votes can be cast by imposters. The voting booth staff are also terrorised into submission.
The second, and the third alternatives can be achieved by the organised gangs who can afford to buy the votes or alternatively terrorise the voters. Under these conditions the politician finds it very convenient to utilise the criminal gangs for winning elections and attaining power. The price they have to pay is to provide protection to the gangs from police action.
The police force is after all a collection of government servants whose careers are dependent on the political executive for the simple of reason that their postings, transfers, promotions etc. are all subject their approval either formal or informal. By this very fact the entire police force gets subjugated to the political will. What can be a better set up for a gang boss than to have a politician giving him protection from the police? Apart from the police, this situation hold good for all the law enforcement agencies like the Customs, Excise, Revenue and others. The law enforcement officer is faced with a very difficult choice. If he succumbs to pressure he has good postings, authority, respect and power as well as substantial amount of financial benefits. If he does not toe the line, he has to remain in unwanted charges, deprived of even normal perks and facilities, and have a generally frustrating and disgruntled career. Under these circumstances it is just not feasible to expect an average enforcement officer to perform his duties in an upright manner.
The judiciary which is the ultimate refuge of the law abiding also does not present a clean image of organised crime. The less is said about judiciary during the Punjab terrorism period. While the public and the criminal justice system is in a coma state, the large cities in India are afflicted with organised crime. The hoard of illegal wealth with the organised gangs keeps growing each day. The annual turnover of Dawood Ibrahim alone was estimated by the CBI to be Rs.2000 crores per annum. This was five years ago. The present day combined earnings of all organised criminal gangs in India can safely be estimated to be not less than Rs.50,000 crores per annum. About 50 to 60 per cent of the total income would probably be spent on gang members’ salaries and maintenance of their assets like cars, ships, safe houses, communication equipment, weapons etc. It would also cover legal expenses for apprehended members, payments to the police, customs, excise, airport and port staff and security and the jail authorities. According to the statement of Arun Gowli, the Bombay gang boss, he pays Rs.5 lakhs a month to the jail staff where he is imprisoned to ensure that he and his gangsters are well looked after in the jail. The rest of the money goes into legitimate investment like real estate, and other businesses. Any business started by a gang cannot fail for the simple reason that there is no competition to contend with as all competitors are made to withdraw from the competition. There is also no dearth of money to tide over difficult periods during which many honest companies would go into liquidation. There is a kind of Midas touch in organised crime and wealth keeps pouring in from whatever it touches. A perusal of the list of the known investments of Dawood Ibrahim will show the magnitude of the money involved.
With this kind of money at their disposal the mafia is in a position to buy practically anyone. There are numerous examples of top ranking politicians who are in direct link with the Mafia and are behold to them for remaining in their chairs. To sum up the Indian Mafia today consists of the Dons, the politicians, the police, the customs, the excise, the revenue as well as the judiciary to some extent. They have made in-roads into all these agencies to a considerable extent, at least substantial enough to be able to nullify all the efforts of law enforcement and ensure the success of the Mafia. In this scenario it becomes extremely difficult to find ways and means to combat organised crime. By and large the law enforcement agencies have the desire to put an end to organised crime. They also have the capability of doing it. Somehow the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
Law in Relation to Organised Crime
Organised gangs commit the same crimes which are committed by ordinary criminals, like kidnapping, extortion and murder. They also provide the public with illicit liquor, drugs, gambling dens, prostitutes and weapons and foreign exchange when needed. All these offences are covered by the various laws like the IPC and other Special Acts. Therefore these offences, when reported to the police are registered under the relevant laws and taken up for investigation. Some cases do get detected and arrests are made and the culprits are prosecuted.
Reasons for poor rate of Conviction:
Very few of them get convicted. The offender who gets convicted is a mere pawn in the game, a small time crook employed by the gang bosses to commit an offence. His conviction is compensated by grant of money, free legal protection and full financial support to the family in addition to a comfortable period in jail. Therefore in real terms the criminal justice system has not achieved any success by the conviction. Another criminal replaces the convict and the crimes continue.
The reasons for the poor rate of conviction are many. They can be listed as under:
1. There is hardly any evidence of witnesses available because of the reluctance of the witnesses to give evidence in court for fear of reprisals by the gangs.
2. The criminals escape after the commission of the offence and go to far away safe houses and by the time they are arrested sufficient time has elapsed which enables them to destroy evidence and to scare away witnesses. If the witness is adamant he may even be eliminated.
3. There is enough money available with the gangs to provide the accused with the best legal aid and even to manipulate court records etc.
4. In case the gang boss is also charge sheeted no evidence is available to connect him with the crime as there are a number of layers in the chain of command between the boss and the actual perpetrator of the crime. The bosses are careful to avoid any direct connection with the real culprit. The underlings operate under the ‘need to know’ basis and are generally unaware of the plans and activities of the gang boss and are unable to divulge any important information to the police on interrogation.
5. Because of the ease with which bail is granted by the courts there is no pressure in the courts to expedite the matter and therefore the case continues for years on end. The prosecution loses interest, the witnesses forget facts, evidence gets destroyed and the cases end in acquittal.
Law in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 relating to Organised Crime:
Section 120-A of the Indian Penal Code defines criminal conspiracy as:
“When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done an illegal act, or an act which is not illegal by illegal means. Such an agreement is designated as criminal conspiracy: provided that no agreement except an agreement to commit an offence shall amount to a criminal conspiracy unless some act besides the agreement is done by one or more parties to such agreement in pursuance thereof merely incidental to that object”.
Section 120-B of the India Penal Code provides for punishment for criminal conspiracy.
Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable with death, imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offence. Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.
Unless the gang bosses are prosecuted and convicted there is not going to be any check on the organised gangs. The use of Section120A&B or Section 114 (Criminal Conspiracy and Abetment) does not meet the requirements of the courts to obtain a conviction as it is next to impossible to prove the existence of a conspiracy between the gang boss and the actual offender. Similarly it is not possible to prove the abetment of the offence by the gang boss as there are no written orders or any records and all instructions are oral and passed on from one level of command to the other till the hit man gets the order from his immediate superior.
The IPC also provides for provisions of dacoity. This is one of the oldest form of crimes in India and it is committed for monetary and pecuniary purposes. It often further involves looting or extortion. Dacoity has been defined under section 391 of the Code.
“When five or more persons conjointly commit or attempt to commit a robbery, or where the whole number of Persons conjointly committing or attempting to commit a robbery, and persons present and aiding such commission or attempt amount to five or more, every person so committing, attempting or aiding is said to commit dacoity.”
Thus, if the offence of robbery has been committed by five or more people, it is called as dacoity. This offence is punishable under Section 395 of the code and it provides of a life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment up to 10 years. Other offences under the code are
- Section 399 which provides punishment for the preparation to commit dacoity.
- Section 402 which provides punishment assembly for the purpose of committing dacoity.
- Section 400 which provides punishment for the act of belonging to a ‘gang’ of persons associated for the purpose of habitually committing dacoity.
- Section 364-A which provides punishment kidnapping for ransom etc.
Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act
The use of TADA was resorted to by the police as this Act has a wide definition of a Terrorist Act and the organised gang crimes could easily be brought under the purview of this Act. However there was a certain amount of misuse of this Act by the police as it was used in ordinary cases also. The Act provides the police with some advantages in dealing with gang offences as under
1. Gang crimes fit into the definition of terrorist act as per TADA.
2. Confession to a police officer of the rank of SP, can be recorded by him.
3. Investigation beyond 180 days without putting charge sheet and accused remain in custody
4. No bail without hearing the public prosecutor and after the hearing still the court comes to the conclusion that no case is made out.
National Security Act, 1980
The Act allows the Central Government or the State Government or any of the officers thereby who are authorised by the government to detain an individual with a view to prevent him from doing any harm. Thus, it allows for preventive detention of an individual by the state. The detention order is generally issued for a time period of one year. This mechanism has been brought in place to ensure that the individual does not act in a manner which threatens the security of the country or it is prejudicial to the defence forces or hampers the relations with other countries. This order has to be approved by a board which is chaired by a High Court Judge. This is an advisory board and must act in a manner which balances the freedom of the individual and the interests of country. This Act is used primarily for terrorists, anti-national individuals and gangsters who have an apprehension to flee the country. The detention under the order is an executive action and there is no trial.
Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act
This Act is primarily aimed at controlling the illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Narcotic and Psychotropic substances have a grave hazard to the health and well-being of the people of any society. Gangs and individuals strike at the foundations of effect of the national economy. The Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1988, thus has provisions which allow for detention of such persons who engage in business of these items. The Act allows the Central Government or the State Government or any of the officers thereby who are authorised by the government to detain an individual with a view to prevent him from doing any harm by passing an order. This detention is usually of one year but in certain situations it can be extendable to two years.
The Central Government has passed several statutes to deal with organised crime and specific facets of the same. These include, the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, Public Gambling Act, 1867, the Customs Act, 1962, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 etc.
Ordinance passed by Maharastra State Government
Mumbai can be considered as an epicentre of gang violence and gang related crimes. In Mumbai out of 294 charge sheets there were only 10 convictions and 96 cases pending. i.e. 10 convictions in 198 decided cases with all these laws the Bombay Police has by and large fought a losing battle with the underworld and 1998 was the high watermark as far as gang crimes are concerned. The killings and kidnappings go on unabated and organised crime continues to thrive.
The State of Maharashtra has at long last brought out an Ordinance called “The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Ordinance 1999” in February 1999. The Ordinance caters for most of the requirements and the conditions necessary to combat organised crime. The relevant features of this Ordinance are
1. “Organised Crime” and “Organised Gangs” have been defined and differentiated from other normal crimes so that they can be identified and dealt with separately.
2. The punishments provided in the Ordinance cater for minimum terms of imprisonment and minimum amounts of fine. A minimum of 5 years imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs. 1 lakh to Rs.5 lakhs has been provided for various offences under this Ordinance. Abetment of crimes under this ordinance and possession of wealth and property acquired through organised crime has also been made punishable with deterrent punishments.
3. Authorisation for interception of wire, electronic and oral communications has been provided for.
4. Presumptions by the Court unaccounted wealth or property owned by a gangster has been acquired through illegal means. A person kidnapped abducted has been kidnapped for ransom.
5. Confessions made to a police officer, not below the rank of an S.P. to be admissible as evidence.
6. Protection of witnesses by keeping their identities secret. Any one disclosing their identity is punishable by one years imprisonment and fine of Rs.1000/-.
7. Forfeiture of property of convicted persons. Attachment of property during trial. Issue of proclamation in case of absconding accused and attachment of his property.
8. Detention of the accused during investigation extended to 180 days.
9. No grant of bail without ‘consultation of public prosecutor and without his clearance.
10. Presumption by court on recovery of unlawful arms or other material from the accused or finding of his fingerprints on the scene of crime the court will presume that the accused has committed the crime.
11. Presumption of Court: if anyone gives financial assistance to a gangster for commission of a crime, such person has committed the offence.
12. Public servants aiding and abetting organised crime by act or omission punishable with three years’ imprisonment and fine.
Similar ordinances have been passed in Punjab, Delhi and Kolkata. This Ordinance appears to have enough teeth to enable the police to deal with organised crime effectively. However, despite the measures the police are unable to utilise it in controlling the mafia.
Problems and Suggestions to Deal with Gang Crimes
In order to deal effectively with organised crime the entire Criminal Justice System one will have to look at the problem from an entirely different angle. Crimes committed by organised gangs have built-in safety measures to protect the criminals from punishment. The real criminals who are the gang bosses are absolutely safe from any kind of legal action against them. This is for the simple reason that the kind of evidence required to punish them just cannot be obtained by the police despite all the suggestions offered by various experts for collecting such evidence. Telephone tapping, photography, listening devices etc. have been recommended to gather evidence against the gang bosses but all such evidence can be torn down to shreds by a good lawyer in the court. In order to get a conviction against a gang boss it has to be proved beyond doubt that the crime. Say kidnapping for ransom was planned by him. Then it has to be proved that he had ordered the commission of the crime to the second line gang leader. Further it has to be proved that the second line leader, in compliance of the bosses’ orders, ordered the actual kidnappers to commit the offence. The ransom money which is collected by an entirely different party or through hawala transaction is again impossible to be linked to the gang boss.
Under such circumstances no Indian court is likely to convict any gang boss unless he commits a crime himself, which he is most unlikely to do.
Unfortunately courts in India are concerned more with evidence than the truth. Their concentration is not on dispensing justice but on delivering judgements. In a vast majority of criminal cases the evidence available is not able to meet the requirements of our courts more than enough to establish the guilt of the guilt of the accused as per the norms of natural justice and to convince the person sitting on judgement. Therefore even if the judge is personally convinced that the accused has committed the crime he would still look for absolute cast iron evidence to convict him. It is therefore very necessary to bring about a change in this attitude of the courts to make them justice oriented rather than be evidence oriented. Under these conditions the possibility of controlling organised crime through the normal process of the law is non-existent. The only other alternative for the police is to give up the fight against the gangs, or to join them and share the loot. In fact this is exactly what has happened in the underworld capital of India, Bombay. The police have realised that neither the politician, nor the bureaucrat or the courts are interested in combating organised crime. Therefore there is no point in the police to fight alone. It is much safer and more lucrative to look the other way and share the loot. In case of occasional public outrage or media pressure they go through the motions of being energetically active for a week or so and arrest a few people. Then things come back to normal and the same set up continues.
The liberal attitude of the courts in matters of bail and acquittals has led to a new system of justice dispensation based on the assumption that nobody gets convicted unless he is an imbecile. The newspapers regularly carry reports of person accused of murder who are acquitted by the courts, being killed by the relatives or friends of the victim immediately on his release from jail. Is this the kind of justice we want where the aggrieved party dispenses justice to the aggressor as he deems fit? If this concept is allowed to spread and take root as it has done in some states like Bihar, then the day is not far when any judge who convicts a criminal will get murdered the next day. The feeling in the general public that whatever crime one may commit will not result in any sort of punishment, provided you have enough funds to finance your defence through good lawyers or have political clout, and is taking firm root. This is not at all desirable for any healthy society as it undermines the very authority of the rule- of law.
Organised crime is very important problem in the country. Due to the sheer vastness and increasing dimensions, the resolution and legal mechanism to control it is the need of the hour. The states must adopt an institutionalised co-ordinating mechanism between the various states to keep track of the gang crimes. Further, it is clear that the ball is in the judicial courts to decide whether it would want to dispense justice or adhere to the rules of evidence and leave the dispensation of justice to the man in the street to wield his own weapon. Thus, fight against organised crime though a formidable task should not be left alone only to police but to all the wings of the state.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Organised Crime?
Organised Crime is a crime which involves an act which is committed by two or more individuals as a joint venture in a systematic manner. It is usually carried on by gang members or people in an association and they help each other out and commit crimes in mutual cooperation with one another. Thus, it can be a group of individuals who has a corporate structure whose primary objective is to obtain money by doing illegal activities. Since these acts are committed by individuals who act as a group, it is often know as gang crimes.
What crimes are included in organised crimes?
The crimes which encompass the organised crime are usually, dacoity, murder, kidnapping, bootlegging, smuggling, extortion, selling of drugs etc.
Is there a central law to deal with organised crime?
No, there are no central laws to deal with this type of crime. It is quite scattered throughout the various statutes books. The most prominent laws are under the Indian Penal Code, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act commonly called as TADA and National Security Act, 1980. A draft bill has been made by the Parliament called as Organised Crime Bill, however, the same is yet to be passed by it.
How can police help in combating organised crime?
India, being an inquisitorial system whereby the burden of proof is on the prosecution hampers the case against the organised crime. Unlike traditional crime, they commit crime in a very sophisticated manner and thus, new methods have to be adapted to tackle with them. The police must adopt an institutionalised co-ordinating mechanism between the various states to keep track of the gang crimes. Further training in an efficient manner is the need of the hour.
Edited by Shikhar Shrivastava
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje