PUCL Karnataka Towards civil liberties and human rights for all in Karnataka

Press Release – Amendments to the Goonda’s Act

08.16.2014 · Posted in Press Releases

PUCL Karnataka is shocked and strongly opposes the recent amendment to the Draconian Goondas Act passed by the Karnataka Assembly, which impinges on civil liberties and undermines constitutionally mandated guarantees of fundamental rights and freedom of expression for all citizens.

The State has egregiously grabbed wide and arbitrary powers, increasing enormously the scope of potential abuse, by the enormous expansion and clubbing of varied offences under The Karnataka Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug-offenders, Gamblers, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum-grabbers and Video or Audio Pirates, Acid attackers, Depradator of Environment, Digital Offenders, Money Launderers and Sexual Predators (Amendment) Bill, 2014.

Extraordinary laws, like this one, are extra-constitutional in nature and intended for use only under exceptional circumstances – which pose grave and imminent threat to public safety and order. The current amendment brings extraordinary measures into the realm of ordinary public life.

With the provision of preventive detention, there is little incentive within this Act for rigorous investigation, improved forensics and better policing leading to a conviction, and a much larger scope for indiscriminate or wrong indictments.

In serious and heinous issues of sexual violence this legislation has completely disregarded recommendations of the Verma Committee, laid down after consultations with the civil society groups, instead allowing suspected offenders charged with probable future crimes to be punished – a priori.

Academic studies have shown that the Goonda Act is susceptible to a strong class bias and criminalises habitual offenders; the practice of picking up rowdy sheeters and habitual offenders goes against the constitutional guarantee of a free and fair trial, apart from being contrary to the very notion of a rehabilitative criminal justice system. Versions of the Goonda Act in other states have been successfully challenged in courts.

The amendments introduce vague terms like ‘sexual predator’ and ‘environmental depredator’ that allow for arbitrary use of the law. Inclusion of the IT and Copyrights infringements, which pose little or no imminent public threat, are further examples of the legislative over reach of this act. These “offenders” can now be criminalised and punished on mere suspicion of possible future innocuous offences with detention up to a year even prior to being presented before a magistrate, placing a large section of the public, especially the younger internet and Facebook generation, in direct threat of indictment and incarceration.

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