Not necessary to have more than 1 chargesheet against all accused to invoke MCOCA: SC

The SC was hearing appeals filed by several accused arrested under the MCOCA for being a part of the organised crime syndicate running illegal activity under the name "Mumbai Matka".

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Saturday, August 27, 2022, 09:25 PM IST
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Not necessary to have more than 1 chargesheet against all accused to invoke MCOCA: SC | PTI

The Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision that it is not necessary to file more than one charge-sheet for each accused person in cases registered under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

A division bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant observed that charge-sheets with respect to the organised crime syndicate are sufficient to fulfil the condition in Section 2(1)(d) [continuing unlawful activity] of MCOCA. Besides, the court has said that the order of approval under Section 23(1)(a) MCOCA need not name every accused person at the outset.

The SC was hearing appeals filed by several accused arrested under the MCOCA for being a part of the organised crime syndicate running illegal activity under the name "Mumbai Matka". The accused were alleged to cheat the public by announcing the number on which the least bets were placed as the winning digit. This is allegedly done in order to ensure that the pay-out is minimal and the profit is as large as possible.

They had approached the SC after the Bombay High Court dismissed their pleas challenging the invocation of MCOCA.

Their colleagues, Aabad Ponda and Siddharth Luthra, challenged the invocation of MCOCA on various grounds. The Maharashtra government, through counsel Raja Thakare, opposed the appeals.

"Continuous unlawful activity" means an activity prohibited by law for the time being in force, which is a cognizable offence punishable with imprisonment of three years or more, undertaken either singly or jointly, as a member of an organised crime syndicate or on behalf of such a syndicate, in respect of which more than one charge-sheet has been filed before a competent Court within the preceding period of ten years and that Court has taken cognizance of such offence.

The accused claimed that no more than one charge-sheet had been filed against each of them in the previous ten years.

Dismissing the argument, the SC said: "This submission does not hold water. "It is settled law that more than one charge sheet is required to be filed in respect of the organised crime syndicate and not in respect of each person who is alleged to be a member of such a syndicate."

The appeals further contended that the order of approval for invoking MCOCA did not name all the accused as required under Section 23(1)(a) MCOCA.

The apex court also rejected this argument, stating that the order of approval to invoke MCOCA need not name every accused person at the outset since the investigating authorities have limited information at the time of registering the offence.

"The order of approval under Section 23(1)(a) MCOCA need not name every accused person at the outset. Often, limited information is available to the investigating authorities at the time of recording information about the commission of an offence," said the court, adding: "The involvement of persons other than those named initially may come to light during the course of investigation by the police. In fact, the very purpose of an investigation is to determine whether a crime has been committed and, if so, to shed light on the details of the crime, including the identity of the perpetrators. "

This holds true for every crime, especially for organised crime, since an "organized crime syndicate may consist of scores of people involved in unlawful activities in different capacities".

It further observed: "Although gambling may not, by itself, constitute an organised crime, it may be the route through which the accused are abetting the commission of organised crime. The question of whether the appellants are in fact abetting organised crime in this manner is to be determined at the stage of trial. "

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