Parliamentary panel lauds move to bring financial scams, cyber crimes, car theft under ambit of organised crime

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New Delhi: Major financial scams, ponzi schemes, cyber crimes, vehicle theft, land grabbing and contract killing will come under the ambit of organised crime in the proposed new criminal law, and if such offences result in the death of any person, the convict will be punishable with death or imprisonment for life.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs headed by BJP MP Brijlal observed that the existing laws were inadequate to tackle many serious offences like organised kidnapping, land grabbing, contract killing, extortion as also many major financial scams and human trafficking, and lauded the proposed punishments as "very effective addition".

According to clause 9 of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS), unlawful activity, including kidnapping, robbery, vehicle theft, extortion, land grabbing, contract killing, economic offences, cyber crimes having severe consequences, trafficking in people, drugs, illicit goods or services and weapons, human trafficking racket for prostitution or ransom by effort of groups of individuals acting in concert, singly or jointly, either as a member of an organised crime syndicate or on behalf of such syndicate, by use of violence, threat of violence, intimidation, coercion, corruption or related activities or other unlawful means to obtain direct or indirect, material benefit including a financial benefit, shall constitute organised crime.

It also explains that economic offences include criminal breach of trust; forgery, counterfeiting of currency and valuable securities, financial scams, running ponzi schemes, mass marketing fraud or multi-level marketing schemes with a view to defraud the people at large for obtaining monetary benefits or large scale organised betting in any form, offences of money laundering and hawala transactions.

In Section 120A of the Indian Penal Code, there is no explanation about organised crime. It only says "When two or more persons agree to do, or cause to be done- (1) an illegal act, or (2) an act which is not illegal by illegal means, such an agreement is designated a criminal conspiracy.

The punishment provides under the BNS is: "Whoever, attempts to commit or commits an offence of organised crime shall,'” (i) if such offence has resulted in death of any person, be punishable with death or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than rupees ten lakhs; (ii) in any other case, be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine which shall not be less than rupees five lakhs..." The committee said this will be "a very effective addition" in the substantive law.

The committee also recommended that terms used like, gang, mafia, crime ring, gang criminality, racketeering, and serious offence maybe defined; the term "criminal organisation" may also be defined clearly as it lacks a distinct definition, leaving uncertainty about the criteria for categorising an organisation as "criminal" and any associated procedures for such classification.

In the present law, the punishment of criminal conspiracy is death sentence imprisonment for life, or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards.

The Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita (BNSS-2023) bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on August 11 along with the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS-2023) and the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam (BSA-2023) bills.

The three proposed laws seek to replace the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, 1898, the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.

The reports of the parliamentary panel were submitted to the Rajya Sabha on Friday.