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UP: Allahabad HC Shows Grave Concern Over 'Rampant Misuse’ of Goondas Act

The HC stated that the notice against Govardhan, the petitioner, reflects a 'sheer abuse of power' by the district authorities.
'Misusing Goondas Act': Allahabad HC Imposes Rs 5 Lakh Cost On Gorakhpur DM For 'Malicious' Proceedings

Allahabad High Court. Representational Image. Image Courtesy: PTI

Lucknow: The Allahabad High Court has raised grave concern over rampant misuse of the Goondas Act and directed the Yogi Adityanath-led Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government to frame uniform guidelines by October 31 regarding the applicability of the Act.

In an order passed on August 10, a division bench of Justices Rahul Chaturvedi and Mohd Azhar Husain Idrisi stated that “one cannot be treated as a “habitual offender” unless there is a tendency of recurrence of the offence.”

The Court has said there is no uniformity in the proceedings under the Uttar Pradesh Control of Goondas Act, 1970. The Supreme Court clearly stated that habitual offenders who threaten public peace should be given notice of the Goondas Act. Action cannot be taken only on one criminal case.

Under this act, a provision exists to expel the person from the city limits. Despite this, a criminal case is being misused by giving notice of the Goondas Act, because of which cases are continuously increasing.

The High Court was hearing a plea filed by Govardhan, who had challenged a show cause notice served to him under the law. The notice, served by the Additional District Magistrate (Finance and Revenue) of Aligarh on June 15, had cited one criminal case and a police complaint against him.

The Court stated that the notice against Govardhan reflects a “sheer abuse of power” by the district authorities.

The High Court further said that the peculiar feature of this legislation is that the person branded as “Goonda” should be ousted from the municipal limits of the city as a preventive measure by the executive authorities of the district by passing an externment order. The person, either himself or as a member or leader of a gang, has to be someone who habitually commits the offences mentioned in Section 2(b) of the Act or has the tendency to commit the offence repeatedly. If a person has a solitary case to his credit, he cannot be branded as a habitual Goonda, argued the counsel for the petitioner.

It is a fundamental right of every citizen to reside peacefully and profess his business, but if the executive authorities are issuing notice under this deterrent law, then they must be doubly sure about the individual’s past image, his past credentials, his family, social, educational background. After assessing all these factors, if the executive authorities conclude that an individual is a “Goonda” or a potential threat to society at large and should be thrown out from the municipal limits, then only after applying his independent judicial mind, pass a well-reasoned order for externment of that individual or even issue notice to that individual calling upon him to justify his past conduct, the bench observed. 

Last year, the Allahabad High Court imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on the office of the Gorakhpur District Magistrate for initiating ‘malicious’ proceedings under the Goondas Act.

The then Gorakhpur DM K Vijayendra Pandian had reportedly used the law to coerce a man to vacate his property and release it in favour of the district administration, LiveLaw reported.

The two-judge bench comprising Justices Suneet Kumar and Syed Waiz Mian directed the Yogi Adityanath government to launch an inquiry into the incident and begin a disciplinary inquiry into Pandian.

In a similar case, eight farmer leaders, including a student of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), were booked under the stringent Goondas Act in Varanasi — the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi —for allegedly participating in the farmers’ protest at the Delhi-Noida border, NewsClick had reported. 

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