Criminal Investigation of Terrorism and Organized Crime
Asad Jahangir Khan
Crime pattern reveals an increasing trend in use of firearms. This has led to a spurt in serious crime. Murder increased from 1,795 in 2000 to 3,548 in 2011 in Sindh. In crime against property an increasing trend is visible in use of firearms. In 2000, Sindh police recorded 3,678 offenses against property in which firearms were used. In 2011, this figure had increased to 11,537. Kidnapping for ransom grew from 73 in 2000 to 182 in 2011.
Police action against illicit firearms is also rising. In 2000, Sindh police registered 5,713 cases for illicit weapons. In 2011, this figure increased to 14,030.
Another alarming trend is the rise in organized crime. Stolen vehicles can be recovered on payment by approaching the right ‘Don’. Other organized crimes are extortion, gambling, prostitution, drugs, alcohol and arms.
It may also be added that Terrorism uses tactics similar to organized crime in spreading fear and in collecting funds. Although there is a special law for Terrorism, no special investigation procedures have been laid down. Therefore, the procedure laid down by Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is followed.
The biggest problem in dealing with these crimes is that there is no law which effectively targets them. Only the law on narcotics is designed to deal with organized drug cartels. A similar law for dealing with these rackets is necessary if these ‘illicit businesses’ are to be dismantled.
The police is investigating these rackets at the police station level without establishing specialized units for this purpose. Karachi has only one specialized unit dealing with vehicle theft. There are no specialized units to investigate other organized rackets. Unless specialized units are created these rackets cannot be tackled.
One problem in creating specialized units for organized crime is that the law does not encourage their establishment. The CrPC empowers only the ‘officer in-charge of the police station’ (SHO) to hear a complaint or register a FIR. Only he can investigate an offense. When another officer is detailed for investigation, he must submit his report to the SHO. When the investigation is completed its report is to be submitted to the court only by the SHO. To enable the establishment of specialized crime units there is need to amend the law. The term ‘officer in-charge of the police station’ wherever used in the CrPC should be replaced by the words ‘police officer’.
It is also necessary to see if the CrPC enables the investigation of these rackets. It seems from the provisions contained in this law that investigation of these rackets cannot be carried out unless amendments are made to this law.
Absolute secrecy is required in investigation of these rackets. Under the existing law secrecy is impossible. Section 157 CrPC lays down that a report of every cognizable offense is to be sent to the magistrate. Police Rule 24.5 lays down that a copy of the FIR shall be sent along with this report. This means that a copy of the FIR can be obtained by anyone. The Police Rules need to state that copy of FIR should not be circulated with the report. The report should only state that a case has been registered and is being investigated. Other details which would link the crime to criminal should not be included.
Amendments are also required in Section 173 of Criminal Procedure Code to ensure secrecy. Subsection 1(a) lays down that the report to the magistrate ‘shall include the names of persons acquainted with the circumstances of the case’. Such a provision of law exposes the police and witnesses to grave danger. The witnesses and the evidence have to be secured against any threat to neutralize or destroy them. Otherwise racketeers cannot be brought to book. A proviso may be added to this section that if the police suspects that witnesses would face grave danger, the names of witnesses and parts of statements which would enable identification, should be withheld.
The second requirement for investigation of this crime is time. Investigation of rackets is time consuming as the whole ‘business’ has to targeted. A proviso to Section 173 CrPC does not give more than seventeen days to police for the investigation of any offense. After this the report of investigation has to be submitted to the court and ‘the court shall commence the trial on the basis of such interim report, unless, for reasons to be recorded, the Court decides that the trial should not so commence’. This proviso was added by an amendment whereas Subsection 1 states that investigation ‘shall be completed without unnecessary delay’.
Clearly the law does not give police adequate time to investigate rackets. As such the police can only take action against the ‘soldier’ in the racket but it cannot target the entire business. The proviso needs to be deleted.
Statements of witnesses are required to be recorded by a magistrate in the presence of the accused (Sec 164 CrPC). As a result of this provision the witness cannot be protected. There is need to empower police to record statements of witnesses during investigation.
The Prosecution Agency also needs to be on the same page regarding investigation into these rackets. Secrecy has to be maintained in this agency. Therefore, rules and regulations are necessary to ensure absolute secrecy within this agency throughout investigation and trial proceedings.
It must be emphasized that organized crime and racketeering has to be dealt on priority basis otherwise it will spread to other legitimate businesses. A special law is required to deal specifically with racketeering. There is need for amendments in CrPC to enable police to investigate the entire racket. The police must establish specialized units for this purpose. The Prosecution Agency should have rules and regulations to guarantee secrecy in handling this illicit business. These measures would also help improve the investigation and prosecution of Terrorism. Unless this is done, organized crime and terrorism cannot be tackled and dismantled.