People are generally not aware of the effects of organized crime and usually when we hear the term “organized crime”, it reminds of highly centralized enterprises which are established for engaging into illicit activities like drug trafficking, prostitution, fraud, robbery, kidnapping for ransom and demanding for “protection” payments from ordinary people. The main source of these big mafia groups or organized syndicates is the supply of goods and services those are illegal in nature but they form a huge demand in the dark side of market such as loan-sharking, flesh business, drugs and gambling.
Some of these criminal groups also force or coerce the general public to do business with them when they extort money from small shopkeepers for “protection” (Hafta). Such gangs or syndicates under the stricter definition of organized crime may become disciplined enough to be considered as organized.
Organized crime also leads to corruption of our police system and other public officials. These groups have immense amount of inflow of black money and thus they often avert the government officials from interfering with their illegal businesses by bribing them. By corrupting the system, they are not only loosening the grip of law and order within the nation, but also taking people’s only resort to such illicit activities. Corruption of public officials is the easiest way for organized groups to monopolize and secure their power and the power and money generated from all these illegitimate works are used to infiltrate their legitimate businesses and several other activities.
Characteristics of Organized Crime
According to the Presidents Commission on Organized Crime 1986, it defines organized crime as the collective outcome of the commitment and knowledge of the following 3 factors-
- Criminal gangs
- Protectors (public officials)
- Specialist support groups
- Characteristics of Criminal group are-
- Continuity- the criminal gangs and groups continue beyond the lifetime of any individual members as the leader of such groups keep changing and they have structured way to survive all these changes for long term period.
- Structure- the gangs have structured as a collection of hierarchically arranged interdependent offices allotted for working on their particular functions. There is no such hard and fast rule that organized groups need to be structured properly, they can also be fluid. But the ranks within the group are based on power and authority of the individual.
- Membership in the gang- To be a member of such criminal groups is restricted and goes through a lot of scrutiny and other factors such as common criminal background, common interests etc. The members need to prove their loyalty towards their particular gang and that they are worthy of the membership. The basic rules to be part of such gangs includes secrecy, willingness to commit any act without any limitations for the syndicate and the intention to protect the group. In return, the members have good flow of economic benefits, certain illicit power in their areas and protection from law enforcement.
- Criminality- the criminal gangs rely on committing criminal activities for generating money, and hence criminal conspiracy is inherent in these organized syndicates. Some of the common acts are transmitting illegal goods and services directly from producer to the stated person while some other gangs are involved in serious crimes such as murder, intimidation and bribery for earning illicit money and establish power among the general people.
- Power or profit/goal- the members of criminal group aim a maximizing the profits of the gang. The gangs usually receive their backing and power from bribing public officials including legislators and other political executive. The gangs exert their power with their association of “protectors” who defend and provide them backing illicitly.
- Protectors- public officials are appointed to maintain peace and harmony within the society and to protect the general public from these kinds of criminal activities and groups. But the irony, is that they are actually protecting and defending such crime syndicates. Protectors are not just public officials but also attorneys, businessmen who individually or collectively protect the criminal group through abuses and violation of laws. The driving force of these gangs to make these protectors work for them is corruption. Basically, the gang relies on the network of their corrupt officials to protect them from the criminal justice system.
- Specialist support group- apart from the protectors, these gangs rely on another group of skilled men or individuals for assistance in their criminal activities on ad-hoc basis. They are also somewhere part of organized crime such as chemists, arsonists, hijackers, shooters etc. These people work at preparation stage of a crime or on contract-based work. Some of the business leaders also support such crime figures in the society at social gatherings and try to whitewash their images before the public and thus, project the criminal group in a glamourous light.
Legal Provisions Recognizing Organized Crime
Organized crime has persisted in India since long time in different forms. But lately, these crimes have taken a contagious form in today’s new-tech world due to many reasons such as socio-economic and political support and technological advancements. Thus, the law needs to be made precise and strict as per the changing situations of the society.
- Criminal conspiracy- Section 120A of the IPC 1860 defines criminal conspiracy as, “When 2 or more persons agree to do or cause something to be done, (i) an illegal act, or (ii) an Act which is not illegal but committed by illegal means. Such an agreement to do something shall be considered as criminal conspiracy.
Section 120B of the IPC provides for punishment for criminal conspiracy and it is same as the conspirator as for the principal offender. Infact, it should be known that criminal conspiracy is itself a substantive independent offence and doesn’t require the criminal act to be fructified. In case, there is proof found regarding the existence of criminal conspiracy, then the accused shall be punished for the same even if the wrongful act was not committed or failed to execute.
- Dacoity and related offences- dacoity is one of the oldest forms of crimes in India and the main purpose of dacoity was to loot the general public or extortion. Section 391 of the IPC gives the definition of “Dacoity” as if there are 5 or more persons committing the offence of robbery, then they are committing the offence of dacoity. Section 395 of IPC mentions the punishment for dacoity as life imprisonment or rigorous imprisonment for upto 10 years.
The Indian Penal Code also criminalizes “Preparation to commit Dacoity” under section 399 and even assembly for purpose of committing dacoity under Section 402. Further section 400 of the IPC also criminalizes the act of belonging to any “gang” of people who are continuously associated of habitually committing dacoities. The punishment with regard to dacoity has been kept extreme in order to keep them under control. There has been decrease in the rate of dacoity in the last 3-4 decades, although some of the Dacoits can be still found in the Chambal ravines of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Apart from dacoity, the IPC criminalizes Section 401 for belonging or being a part of gang of thieves. It is thus, clear that there are measures taken by the government to keep theft and dacoity sort of crimes under control with these legislative tools, but when it comes to proving dacoity it requires time-consuming investigation by the police officers and there is also threat to life, as these people are very much capable of murdering the officials also, in order to escape the law.
- Law on gangsters- there is no central or union law specifically made for suppressing or punishing gang activities, but the state of Uttar Pradesh, has enacted the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-social Activities (Prevention) Act 1986 applicable only within the territory of UP.
Within the legislation, the gang is defined as group of persons who individually or collectively are engaging in any anti-national activities by creating violence or threatening about violence for gaining any sort of economic, political or physical advantages or favours. This includes the activities such as offences against the body, forcible possession of immovable property, creating communal hate or disturbance among general public, blocking the public servants to discharge their duties, kidnapping for ransom, diverting any public vehicle such as aircraft or train from its schedule path etc. Under Section 3 of the Act, it even punishes a “gangster” with minimum sentence of 2 years extending up to 10 years.
- Other Laws- there are several other central statutes which deal with different forms of organized crimes such as the Customs Act 1962, the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1884, the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956, the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act 1973 and the Public Gambling Act 1867. Besides, the various state governments have legislations on subjects like Excise, Prohibition and Gambling etc.
Reasons For Ineffective Control of Organized Crime in India till date
Even though, we have multiple legislations for controlling and regulating organized crimes in India, there are many loopholes to these legislations due to which the rate of organized crime has increased substantially.
- Insufficient legal structure- one of the major failures for combating organized crimes is that, India doesn’t have any central law with regard to organized crime which punishes them for carrying out such illegal businesses. All the crimes committed via organized criminal groups are dealt by our IPC in generic form of conspiracy law and certain other laws and the existing law focuses on bringing the individual behind the bars, but this doesn’t affect their structure and gangs. The groups need to be targeted with specific laws.
- The pace of trials conducted is slow- India has very low rate of conviction, firstly because of lack of judges required for delivering justice to such huge masses and our laws are so complicated, that Justice loses its pace and the case goes for years and years. The average run time of trial depends from case to case and their respective State laws also, but there aren’t many states which provide speedy justice to their people. All of this culminates into low conviction rates of the and it has been noted that around only 38% murder and rape cases result into final conviction of the accused and that too after many years in India.
- Difficulty in getting evidence- In these kinds of organized crimes, the witnesses are afraid and threatened to not give their statement before the court against these syndicates. Even the informers never come forward as witness before the court as there is some kind of taboo attached to the idea of “informer”, and they are not even considered to be reliable. In world of organized crime and ganga it leaves very less scope for documentary or other kind of proofs apart from the witnesses, especially in certain offences such as gambling and prostitution, the people will never raise any issues as most of them might be the general participant of such of such crimes.
- Lack of Co-ordination- In India there is no co-ordination among the State and city police officials with the central law enforcement agencies, they are all against each other, which helps the corruption to seep in through these cracks and let injustice happen to the society. Further, there is also no such agency to collect, analyse and prepare documents with regard to such crimes and function as the union agency keeping the track record of all international and inter-state gang operations within as well as outside India.
- Dual Criminality- crime syndicates are not limited to the territorial boundaries of India and certain crimes are often in connection with other countries, such as drug trafficking wherein these substances are smuggled into the territory of India through different countries and no source can be traced for such illicit working. Even the leaders of these crime syndicates often reside in other countries like Dawood Ibrahim who operates all his illegal work from Dubai and thus no trials can be initiated against him. Other countries often harbour such crime leaders due to their immense income groups. Thus, it makes it altogether difficult to convict such criminals and deter the working of organized groups.
Therefore, it can be concluded that organized crime is definitely a domestic issue of every country, but if it goes unchecked for longer period then it assumes a transnational character and becomes very difficult to track and try them for their wrongs. These kinds of crimes succeed as long as the nations allow them to succeed. The major step which can be taken to keep the ordinary crime under control by enacting and implementing efficient legislations, because the more you let it grow, it will get harder to stop them.
Organized crime depending upon its reach, dimensions, intensity should be combated with various criminal laws and justice system by creating state as well as central levels of co-ordinating mechanism and also incorporating the Media, as it helps to spread the news faster with the increased technological advancements.
Moreover, the international bodies such as United Nations and International Court of Justice should bring all the member countries together to devise a common way to curb this nature of crimes and put their heads into stringent extradition and deportation laws and narrow down the concept of “political offences” in the Interpol Charter. Hence, there has to be combined efforts by the government and Courts to combat the evils of organized crimes along with the support of international bodies.
This article is authored by Rhea Banerjee, BA.LLB graduate.