HC gives goons a reason to smile
Date: 05/01/2002
Source: The Indian Express



HC gives goons a reason to smile
: Even as the debate over POTO rages, goondas in Rajasthan have reason to rejoice. In a significant judgement the Rajasthan High Court has on December 4 declared one of the most stringent provisions of the Rajasthan Control of Goondas Act 1975 as ''unconstitutional''.
The clause, which has been struck down, allowed police to take action for ''externment or banishment of a hardened goonda to another district for a period of six months or more, in the interests of maintaining peace'' in cases where witnesses were too scared to give evidence.
The court in its ruling, held that the clause violated Article 19 (1)(d) and (e) and Article 21 of the Constitution — the fundamental right to life — to live a decent and civilised life and move freely. ''The law of externment imposes unreasonable restrictions on the goonda, who is in a worst situation than that of a prisoner... as he has no residential facility or food or clothes during this period and is forced to reside in places chosen by the District Magistrate,'' it said.
Already law journals and advocates of other states such as Delhi and UP are clamouring for copies of the judgement, as similar Acts are operative there.
Ironically, the judgement was delivered in a case pertaining to a hardened goonda from Kaithun Kasbah of Kotah city, Satya Narain alias Sattu.
Sattu is currently facing three criminal cases — for theft, abduction of a lady and possession of a sharp-edged weapon under the Arms Act. According to police records, he had been caught and fined for gambling and misbehaving on half a dozen occasions in the last 13 years, and had created terror in his locality. The residents were afraid to testify against him.
After repeated warnings, in November 2000, an order was passed by the ADM externing him to Bundi for six months. Luckily for him, the High Court has struck down the order, giving in the process, a reprieve, not only to him, but to thousands of others facing such action.
Sattu's counsel Suresh Sahni said, ''Hitherto nobody had challenged the constitutional validity of this Act which is operational in UP as well. Even those accused of the most heinous offences under NSA and COFEPOSA get basic amenities. After all we are living in a democratic country.''
But for police grappling to come to terms with rising crime levels, the judgement has come as a severe blow. Kotah SP (city) D.C. Jain said, ''Normally trial of criminals go on till they expire. Externment was an important tool to keep activities of ant-social elements like gamblers and eve-teasers under check.''
In the last three years alone, according to police records, the number of externment orders in the state have risen sharply from 378 in 1999, to 909 in 2000 and 804 till Nov, 2001.
Cautions senior High Court advocate Jagdeep Dhankar,''This judgement will lead to the worsening of law and order and help the mafia flourish. The reasoning given is available to anyone you detain even under COFEPOSA or preventive detention. The judgement itself needs to be reviewed. An Act of the state legislature has been impeached in the court.''