THE Supreme Court on April 26 observed that prosecution can move ahead against a person under the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986 even if there is only a single offence or first information report [FIR] registered for any of the anti-social activities envisaged in the Act, in Shraddha Gupta vs. The State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors.
After going through the definitions of terms such as ‘gang’ and ‘gangster’, the division bench of Justice M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna held that:
“[C]onsidering the provisions under the Gangsters Act, 1986 as they are, even in case of a single offence/FIR/charge sheet, if it is found that the accused is a member of a ‘Gang’ and has indulged in any of the anti-social activities mentioned in Section 2(b) of the Gangsters Act, such as, by violence, or threat or show of violence, or intimidation, or coercion or otherwise with the object of disturbing public order or of gaining any undue temporal, pecuniary, material or other advantage for himself or any other person and he/she can be termed as ‘Gangster’ within the definition of Section 2(c) of the Act, he/she can be prosecuted for the offences under the Gangsters Act.”
The matter reached the Supreme Court after the Allahabad High Court refused to quash proceedings against the accused under the Act.
One day, at about 5:30 p.m., the informant’s (respondent no. 4) sister K.S. Sharma was returning from Badaun to Ujhani, sitting on the rear seat of the scooty being driven by her servant Behari. When the scooty reached near Balaji temple, they saw a car parked near the temple and the car followed the scooty. The car of the accused ended up ramming into Sharma’s scooty, owing to which both Sharma and Behari fell on the road. Then the accused drove their car towards Sharma, stopped it near Behari and shouted, “Kill this fellow also otherwise he may also give evidence”.
Eventually, Sharma succumbed to her injuries. The informant on May 24, 2016 stated that her sister and her family members had an enmity with the accused persons. The complainant alleged that she apprehends the association of former Bharatiya Janta Party legislator Yogender Sagar in the entire conspiracy and accordingly, an FIR was filed against the accused invoking Sections 147 (punishment for rioting), 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 504 (insult intended to invoke breach of peace), 323 (punishment for voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation), and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
On behalf of the appellant-accused, it was argued that by no stretch of imagination can she be said to be a ‘gangster’ and/or a member of the ‘gang’.
Also, the appellant cannot be said to be in connection with anti-social activities for which she was to be charged for the offences under Sections 2 or 3 of the Act.
Further, the accused-appellant contended that solely on the basis of a single FIR/charge sheet, and that too with respect to a single murder, the appellant cannot be said to be a ‘gangster’ and/or a member of the ‘gang’.
Opposing this plea, the State contended that even in the case of a single FIR/chargesheet registered against anti-social activities mentioned in Section 2(b) of the Act, there can be a prosecution against the same.
Also, the court was apprised that the provisions of the Act were invoked after following due procedure – firstly, the gang chart was prepared and the same was approved by the higher authority as well as the District Magistrate.
What the court held
The moot question in the case was whether a single crime committed by a ‘gangster’ is sufficient to apply the Gangsters Act to such members of a ‘gang’.
The Supreme Court bench noted that under the Act, a ‘gang’ is a group of one or more persons who commit/s the crimes mentioned in the definition clause for the motive of earning undue advantage, whether pecuniary, material or otherwise.
The court was prompt to note that there is no specific provision under the Act as there is under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, 1999 or the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organized Crime Act, 2015 which specifically mentions that while prosecuting an accused under the Act, there should be more than one offence or FIR/charge sheet.
Further, going through the facts, the bench observed that the main accused, P.C. Sharma, was a gang leader and the mastermind behind the crime. He had hatched the criminal conspiracy along with other co-accused, including the appellant, to commit the murder of the deceased K.S. Sharma for a pecuniary benefit as there was a property dispute going on for a long period between the family members.
Therefore, the Supreme Court was of the view that the High Court had rightly refused to quash the criminal proceedings against the appellant-accused under Sections 2/3 of the Act.
These observations and findings prompted the court to dismiss the accused’s appeal.
Click here to view the Supreme Court’s full judgment.