June 25, 2009

“West Bengal needs to declare CPI (Maoist) an unlawful association”

NEW DELHI, JUNE 23: While the Centre has listed the CPI (Maoist) as a terrorist organisation, there is still need for the West Bengal government to declare the outfit an “unlawful association,” highly placed sources in the Union Home Ministry said.

Underlining the fact that the laws in force make a distinction between a “terrorist organisation” and an “unlawful association,” the sources said a terrorist organisation is defined in Section 2(1)(m) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

It means an “organisation listed in the Schedule or an organisation operating under the same name as an organisation so listed.”

The Schedule to the Act listed 32 organisations and it included CPI(Marxist-Leninist), People’s War and Maoist Communist Centre (MCC), all its formations and front organisations.

Once the Centre includes an organisation in the Schedule and lists it a terrorist organisation, that order will apply throughout India. Penal action can be taken against it, or a member or supporter of, or a fund raiser for it anywhere in India.

On the other hand, the sources clarified, the concept of an unlawful association is “very different.”

Under UA(P)A, ‘unlawful association’ is defined in Section 2(1) (p), and it means any association which has for its object any unlawful activity. “Unlawful activity” is defined in Section 2(1)(o) as any action which is intended to bring about secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union or which incites secession or which questions the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.

While UA(P)A is directed against unlawful associations that support secession, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1908 has a very different objective. It is directed against associations which encourage or aid persons to commit acts or violence or intimidation. The power is vested in the State government to declare an association as unlawful if the object of the association is interference with the administration of the law or interference with the maintenance of law and order or if the association constitutes a danger to the public peace.

The sources said once an association is declared an “unlawful association” under Section 16 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1908, Section 17, 17A, 17B, 17C and 17E are attracted.

Broadly, these provisions provide for offences and penalties. It will be an offence to contribute or solicit a contribution to an unlawful association or manage an unlawful association. The offences are cognisable and non-bailable.

Further, the State government will acquire special powers under Sections 17A, 17B and 17E.

“It will be seen that the scope and application of the Criminal Law Amendment Act is very different – and much wider – than UA(P)A. Besides, the former Act vests power in the State government; UA(P) A vests the power in the Central government,” sources said.

The West Bengal government has been advised by the Union Home Ministry to act under Section 16 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and declare CPI (Maoist) as an unlawful association, the sources said.

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