Mansimran Kaur

New Delhi, May 21,2022: Observing that the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 came into existence for making special provisions for dealing with the menace of organised crime causing serious threat to society, the Supreme Court has opined that the rule of strict construction of a 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. 

A Division Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Anniruddha Bose affirmed that strict adherence by the authorities concerned to the requirements of MCOCA cannot be stretched beyond common sense and practical requirements in terms of the letter and spirit of the statute and dismissed the present appeal instituted against the order of the Bombay High Court whereby the High Court rejected the appellant’s challenge to the order issued by the Additional Director General of Police and Commissioner of Police under Section 23 (2).

The emergence of the present appeal was from the complaint wherein the complainant alleged that he was forcefully kidnapped from a restaurant, intimidated with a knife and a ransom of Rs 20 lakhs was demanded by the accused persons. The complainant also alleged that the accused persons asked him to give them papers of his ancestral property and to hand over the shop. Consequently they forcefully took out an amount of Rs 9,000 to Rs 11,000 from his pocket. So, a case was registered under Sections 363, 364A, 384, 386, 387, 397 and 504 IPC. Thereafter, the appellant apprehending his arrest filed for anticipatory bail and the same was granted to him by the Sessions Judge.

In view of the fact that later MCOCA was invoked, the application for pre-arrest bail filed by the appellant was rejected by the Sessions Judge, Nagpur. However, the appellant was found out of reach and a proclamation was issued declaring him as an absconder. Thereafter, the Additional Director General of Police and Commissioner of Police issued a sanction to prosecute the accused persons under IPC, Arms Act and MCOCA. It was this sanction order that was the subject matter in the instant case. The same was assailed by the appellant by way of writ petition before the High Court. The High Court dismissed the aforesaid writ petition. Aggrieved by the same, the appellant instituted an appeal before the present Court assailing the judgment and order of the High Court as well as the sanction order. 

The Court further observed that actual use of violence is not always a sine qua non for an activity falling within the
mischief of organised crime. Threat of violence, intimidation, coercion or use of other unlawful means would fall within the mischief, added the Bench. Reliance was placed on the judgments of the Top Court in Ranjitsing Brahmajeetsing Sharma v. State of Maharashtra & Anr, State of Maharashtra & Ors. v. Lalit Somdatta Nagpal & Anr for the same. The Bench also said, “The enactment in question, i.e., MCOCA, essentially intends to deal with the criminal activities by an organised crime syndicate or gangs; and protection of witnesses is also one of the avowed objectives of this enactment“.

The Bench asserted that MCOCA is a special penal statute and no one is to be made subject to this law by implication or by presumption and all doubts concerning its application would, ordinarily, be resolved in favour of the accused. With respect to application MCOCA, the Court remarked, “…what is required to be seen is as to whether the basic and threshold requirements, as per combined reading of clauses (d), (e) and (f) of Section 2(1) thereof, are fulfilled. If they are not so fulfilled, mere use of the expressions of the statute in the sanction order would be of no effect but, on the other hand, if the requirements are fulfilled, mere want of any expression or word in a particular passage in the sanction order would not take away the substance of the matter.”

Referring to the order in question,the Bench opined that the approving authority, and  the sanctioning authority, were conscious of the requirement of law and indeed examined the matter only with reference to such requirement and issued the orders only after arriving at the requisite satisfaction. The Bench also held that the appeal assailing the judgment of the High Court and the sanctioning order, was required to be rejected when the appellant had indeed been declared absconder. Further all the contentions submitted by the appellant were refuted by the present Court. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed on account of being meritless. 

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