The Yogi Adityanath government's UPCOC Bill on Friday hit a roadblock in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council, where a determined opposition stalled its passage, following which the chairman referred it to a House panel for scrutiny.
After a brief but animated discussion on the Uttar Pradesh Control of Organised Crimes (UPCOC) Bill, 2017, drafted on the lines of the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA), it was put to vote.
Sensing the sentiments of the members, Chairman Ramesh Yadav referred the bill to the Select Committee of the Legislative Council for scrutiny.
In the Upper House, the ruling BJP is in minority unlike in the state Assembly, where it enjoys brute majority of 325 (along with allies) in the 403-member House.
In the 100-member Council, the BJP has just 13 members. The Samajwadi Party has 61 members, the BSP nine, Congress two, RLD one and 'others' 12. Two seats are vacant.
Buoyed by their strength in the Upper House, the opposition members slammed the proposed legislation, which was passed by voice vote in the state Assembly on Thursday, saying its provisions were draconian and feared it could be used to settle political scores by the party in power.
The statement of object and reasons appended to the bill states that the existing legal framework of penal and procedural law and the adjudicatory system were found to be inadequate in controlling organised crime.
To combat organised crime, it was decided that a special law would be introduced, with stringent and deterrent provisions including attachment of properties, remand process, setting up of special courts and special prosecutors for speedy trials and modern investigation processes.
Under the organised crimes category, it listed offences such as kidnapping or abduction, illegal or forcible bidding in government contracts, murdering anyone by taking money or getting someone killed, grabbing of government or individual land, purchase of land on forged documents and collection of protection money.
It included illegal mining or illegal extraction of forest produce or trade in wildlife, money laundering, human trafficking, spurious liquor manufacturing and trafficking in drugs and other banned items.
The bill envisages stringent punishment for convicts. Those causing loss of life can be sentenced to death or be imprisoned for life and pay a minimum fine of Rs 25 lakh.
For other crimes, the punishment could vary between seven years and up to a life term in jail, with a minimum fine of Rs 15 lakh.
The bill also provides for setting up special courts for speedy disposal of cases in consultation with the high court.