Generally speaking, organised crime is an act which is committed by two or more criminals as a joint venture in a systematically organised manner. It is an illegal act which the members of an unlawful association commit with mutual co-operation and adventure.
Dr. Walter Reckless defines organised crime as an unlawful misadventure which is carried on by a boss, his lieutenants and operators who form a hierarchical structure for a specific period.
According to Sellin, “organised crime resembles those economic adventures or enterprises which are organised to carry on illegal activities”. He further observed that organised crime is “synonymous with economic enterprises organised for the purpose of conducting illegal activities and which, when they operate legitimate ventures, do so by illegal means”.
The purpose of such activities is to amass huge profits through illegal means. The largest share of the profits, however, goes to the manager and kingpin of the entire iniquitous enterprise, e.g., prostitution, smuggling, bootlegging, gambling, racketeering etc.
Organised crimes have been in existence for centuries in almost every society. Criminals organise themselves into formal or informal groups to carry on their illegal activities violating the law ruthlessly. Like any other business organisation, the professional criminals organise themselves into criminal gangs to carry on their anti-social activities with skill and efficiency for profit making.
Commenting on organised crimes Donald Taft observed that, “the organisation of criminals introduced in the field of crime those factors of leadership, group-discipline, obedience, and loyalty, division of labour, fellowmenship, sacrifice, co-operation and group planning which spell efficiency in the normal economic, political and social life.” Most criminals organise themselves into criminal groups with a view to specialising in their trait and accept a particular crime as their occupation.
The gang of criminals practising one particular criminal activity does not generally interfere with the criminal organisations practising other crimes. However, on account of inter-connection between the criminal activities carried on by two or more organised groups of criminals, one group may at times be seen to carry on its activities in close liaison with that of another.
Thus, organised gambling, liquor trade and prostitution may go on hand in hand because of the peculiar nature of these crimes. The professional criminals who organise themselves into criminal gangs are often the habitual and hardened offenders who have embraced criminality as a regular profession in their life.
At times organisation of criminals may be formed informally because of similarity or reciprocity of interests and attitudes. A group of persons which may have been formed for some legitimate purpose might subsequently turn into organised criminal association to carry on some illegitimate purposes.
Edwin Sutherland rightly observes that there is at least one thing common among these criminal organisations. That is, they are bound together by a common hostility towards law and, therefore, the members assist and protect each other from law enforcing authorities.
Since protection against arrest and detection is a necessary part of organised crimes, gangsters too often adopt the technique of “fixing crimes” which is far more important than executing them. For this purpose they try to win over police officials by underhand tactics or use of threat, undue influence or coercion against the victim in order to refrain him from making a complaint to the police.
That apart, organised criminals have also to seek co-operation and support from some parallel legitimate business organisations for disposing of their illegally earned money, property or commodity. Thus, organised crimes involve a number of accessory activities for the smooth conduct of their underworld profession.
Different types of criminal organisations that may operate in the criminal world can be categorised into the following heads:
(1) Organised predatory crime;
(2) Crime syndicate;
(3) Criminal racket;
(4) Political graft.
(1) Organised predatory crime:
Crimes which do not involve any kind of service to the affected person or persons are called predatory crimes. It is therefore essentially a one-way transaction inasmuch as the gangsters by committing such crime enjoy the entire benefit themselves without any apparent or actual service to the victim.
There is no repentance among the gangsters although they are conscious of the opposition of law-abiding society. Juvenile delinquents and occasional offenders generally turn into professional gangsters in course of time. Commenting on this tendency, John Landesco observed that “in some delinquency areas the choice of professional career in crime is as natural to the criminal as the choice of a legitimate career may be elsewhere.”
The noted criminologist, Sutherland opines that members of the professional criminal gangs require greater skill and planning than the occasional criminals. Their professionalisation involves not only the execution of crime but prior location of “spots” and preparation for escape from punishment in case of detection.
Some of the predatory crimes which commonly occur are theft, dacoity, extortion, kidnapping, pick-pocketing etc. The peculiar characteristic of a predatory crime is that the victim of this crime is a total loser without any material gain or advantage or service from the offender. Thus, in a predatory crime the exploitation of the victim is so conspicuous that entire society reacts to it.
A few criminals join together to organise into a ‘gang’ and carry on criminal activities as a joint venture. The gangs of dacoits, kidnappers and smugglers and pickpockets operate almost everywhere carrying out their organised criminal activities as professionalised ventures.
Of late, the emergence of terrorism as an organised form of predatory crime has endangered peace and security. It is to be found in different forms such as political terrorism, religious terrorism narco-terrorism etc. It basically involves violence and killing thus posing a serious law and order problem for the State administration.
The dissemination of new technology and weapons has facilitated the growth of terrorism. Though the roots of terrorism or extremism lie in ethnic or religious fundamentalism, it has proved a boon for professional criminals to carry on their criminal activities in a planned manner for dubious goals.
The Government of India introduced an Act called the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 to ban any association or group of persons which carries on unlawful activities threatening national integrity and security of India. Exercising its power under the Act, the Government of India, by its notification, S.O. 190(E) dated 18th February 1994 has declared JKLF (Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front) as an unlawful association because of violent secessionist militant activities which has resulted into the killing of a large number of civilians and security force personnel, sabotage, abduction and destruction of property. Their main object being to create chaos and insecurity among the people and to erase the authority of Government of India or destablise it.
(2) Crime Syndicate:
The term ‘crime syndicate’ refers to a gang of criminals engaged in the business of providing some forbidden or illegal service to the customers who are desirous of having it and are willing to pay handsomely for that service. Crime syndicates operate because of the availability of market for certain illegal prohibited services.
Thus, gambling, bootlegging commercialised prostitution, supply of narcotic drugs and other intoxicants, etc., are mostly carried on by the syndicates of criminals. Obviously, these crime syndicates exist because of the illegitimate public demands which cannot otherwise be legally met due to legal prohibitions.
The possibility of enormous profits involved in the fulfilment of these illegal demands is perhaps the main consideration involved in the organisation of criminal syndicates. Criminal syndicates make huge profits and it is primarily due to these organised criminals that many profiteers secure monopolies in illegal operation of service crimes.
These monopolies are procured by persuation, intimidation, violence and even murder. More often than not, these gangsters are extended protection and shelter by law-abiding persons in carrying on their criminal activities for soliciting an illegal service.
Crime syndicates are master-minded by highly skilled and professionalised gang-leaders. Commenting on the working of crime syndicates David Dressier observed that despite known arrest records and well documented criminal statistics, the leading gangsters remain for the most part of their career immune from prosecution and punishment although underlinks of their gangs may at times be prosecuted and punished.
The quasi-immunity of top-level mobsters can be ascribed to what is popularly known as ‘fix’. The ‘fix’ is not always direct payment of money to law enforcement officials but may also come about through the acquisition of political power by contributions to political organisations or by creating economic ties with apparently respectable businessmen and lawyers and by buying public goodwill through charities, contributions and press relations.
(3) Criminal Racket:
Racketeering in criminal world is the practice of systematic extortion under some kind of threat usually of personal injury or property. Donald Taft defines racketeering as “an organised crime in which the criminal elements perform a service to such members of society who are normally engaged in some legitimate business activity”.
Racketeering differs from an organised predatory crime inasmuch as some kind of service is essentially involved in it and therefore, it is not completely exploitative. It also differs from a criminal syndicate as the service involved in a racket is rendered to those who are normally engaged in legitimate activities while in case of syndicate the service is altogether illegal and prohibited.
It is thus evident that opportunities for racketeering increase when business is not within the legal limits or is marginally within limits and legitimate recourse to police help for its protection is not possible. Persons who are exploited by the racketeers are sometimes convinced of the value of services taken by them even at the cost of their own exploitation. Thus, it can be safely adduced that organised racketeering is nothing but an illegal exploitation for some legitimate or illegitimate demand.
In the present competitive economy the individual business organisers as well as the labour unions frequently depend on criminal rackets for improving their bargaining capacity. At times, this involves use of force and compulsion which ultimately leads to threats of violence and coercion. Some of the major rackets which commonly operate may be mentioned here:
Business Labour Racket:
Within the area of legitimate enterprise the law courts, police and the Government are acting as supervisors to restrain and guide the competitive processes. The employers always try to make huge profits whereas the labour wants high wages. Thus, the interests of these two classes often lead to a conflict in pursuit of their desired ends. The employers resort to illegitimate means by utilising unorganised workers and racketeers to jeopardise the bargaining capacity of the labour thus grabbing huge profits for themselves.
For example, there are cases when organisers of even most reputed industrial establishments muster many non-existent and fictitious names on their payrolls as labourers and thus draw huge sums in their name for months through an organised racket. Such rackets frequently operate in the Engineering Department of the Railways and Public Works Department of the States which employ a large number of workers as work-charge labour.
In yet another type of labour-racket, salary by the racketeers is drawn in the name of certain fictitious persons who do not actually come for work but their attendance at work is marked by the interested parties who are participating in the racket.
Thus, racketeers make the deal profitable to themselves in liaison with the employers and in return offer protection to the latter against the workers’ strike and possible labour unrest. They are vigilant to make sure that they always remain indispensable to the employer and for this purpose they sometimes manipulate their election to the unions of the labour organisation by whatever means.
Labour rackets are also frequently found to operate in dockyards where speedy commercial transactions are involved. The cargoes arriving at the dockyard have to be unloaded in shortest possible time because delay in unloading would mean loss of profit to importers and shipping companies.
Therefore, in order to eliminate any possibility of delay in transhipment of goods on account of workers’ strikes, labour-unrest or pressure tactics of the workers, the employers often take the top leaders of the labour union into confidence and employ a large number of professional criminals and habitual offenders to organise themselves into labour racket and retaliate threats from the dockyard workers.
These racketeers keep the labour situation well under control and in return extract huge sums of money from the employers. One such Racket operated in America in the name of the New York Water Front Racket. Similar rackets are operative in various dockyards in India. In essence, it can be stated that the problem of racketeering as an organised crime is effected by the circumstances and guided by the principle of demand and supply. The ultimate object is to keep up with the time taking the advantage of favourable situations in business world.
There is yet another type of racket operating as ‘gambling racket’ in shape of organised crime. Tendency of the people to take chance and try their luck coupled with the hope of gaining something out of nothing is perhaps the main consideration which underlies the gambling rackets. Horse races, animal-combats and ball games are some of the common forms of gambling in which organised racketeering often flourishes.
Unfortunately, anti-gambling laws have totally failed to suppress this menace because of the inherent tendency of men to speculate and try their fortune. Moreover, in recent years the State lotteries run by State Governments sufficiently suggest that even the government accepts gambling as a potential source for raising revenue and improving the financial resources.
Certain States have gone a step further and withdrawn all restrictions on speculation (satta) which can now be freely practised by the residents within those States. Probably, it is felt that these vices which are deep rooted in the society cannot be stopped merely by legislative measures unless public opinion mobilises in favour of uprooting them from the society.
In United States, cyber casinos and internet gambling permitting non-sporting bets have been operating as an off-shore internet wagering racket for quite some time. The United States Government has set up the regulatory framework to allow casinos to extend their reach into the internet only after the Gaming Control Board’s clearance. Illegal bettors are making huge profits through this cyber space gambling racket operating on internet.
Other Criminal Rackets:
Rackets are found in abundance in the commercial world and business organisations. In many cases racketeering is carried on as a regular occupation. A racket of the fake recruiting personnel was unearthed by the Superintendent of Police, Meerut on March 5, 1975. It was led by one Ravilal Sharma who allegedly recruited young-men to the army with bogus certificates of education and age and fictitious addresses. In return he charged huge sums from his victims. Several employees of the Meerut Recruiting Office were also involved in this racket.
The Central Bureau of Investigation busted a transport department racket in Delhi on August 22, 1995 wherein six Motor Vehicle Inspectors along with four touts were caught redhanded dividing the day’s bribe amount of Rs. 1.27 lakh at the Burari office in North Delhi. In subsequent search of the Inspector’s houses, the Anti-corruption Branch Delhi seized assets worth 1.5 crore. The bribe was collected for issuing licences and certificates regarding road worthiness of vehicles etc. The case sufficiently highlights the magnitude of criminality which persists in certain public offices in the form of organised rackets.
The racket carrying on illegal sale of alcohol and narcotics, abortion, illegal service to the underworld criminals, fraudulent reports and testimony in accident cases and similar such activities work in close liaison with persons engaged in medical profession with the motive of earning huge profits.
Likewise, rackets selling fake degrees and mark-sheets to needy persons are operating in several parts of India. Obviously, they carry on their illegal activities in liaison with some of the University employees who assist them in procuring necessary information and material for the purpose.
In 1990 two such rackets were unearthed in Madhya Pradesh, one at Rajpur and the other at Ujjain. Several forged mark-sheets, seals, and other incriminating material was recovered from them. Some of the University employees were allegedly involved in these rackets who are facing legal action.
Criminal rackets involved in flesh trade and sale of women and girls for the purpose of prostitution are common news-items in newspapers to be read almost every day. Despite stringent legal measures such as the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the repression of prostitution has not been possible.
The problem being more of a social and economic nature, needs to be tackled through better social and economic planning rather than social legislation alone. The recent developments in information technology and Internet services have opened new opportunities for these rackets to operate nationwide.
The Supreme Court, in its decision in Gaurav Jain v. Union of India & others issued direction to the Social Welfare Department of the Government of India and the States to initiate adequate measures for prevention of induction of women in various forms of prostitution and rescue them from the vile flesh-trade and to provide them dignity of person, means of livelihood and socio-economic empowerment.
(4) Political Graft:
There is a general belief that persons of high status carrying on some legitimate business and professional criminals are inter-connected through political grafts. In order to assume political power and party’s victory at polls, the politicians generally seek the support of notorious offenders and utilise them for illegal practices to accomplish their political ends. This utilisation of notorious criminals by the politicians for political gains is commonly known as ‘political graft’.
These grafts resort to all kinds of legitimate or illegitimate methods to bring success to their employer at polls. At times, these hired professional offenders do not even hesitate to resort to violence and threats to make voters cast their votes in favour of the candidate for whom they are working. Instances are not wanting when some professional voters have been found to vote at more than one place for different electorates. Thus, ‘vote buying’ is a common example of political graft.
The issue of links between crime syndicates and politicians as also the bureaucrats, has been sufficiently highlighted in what purports to be the N.N. Vohra Committee Report” which was tabled before the House of Parliament on 3rd August, 1995. It has been alleged in the report that criminal gangs enjoy patronage of ‘local level politicians’ and the criminal deeds of political high ups are conveniently hushed up or ignored.
This has resulted into criminalisation of Indian politics and making criminal actions respectable. The name of Iqbal ‘Mirchi’ one of the prime accused in the Bombay Blast case of January, 1993 also finds place in the Vora Report as an example of the growth of a small functionary into a major syndicate.
The Report refers to the proposals put forth by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for enhancement in the power of preventive detention, to award punishment, tap telephones, carry out surveillance, establish monitoring mechanism at State and Central levels, and simplification of trial procedures including review and amendments of existing laws, etc., so that the guilty be punished irrespective of their class or cadre.
Acting on this report, the Government of India appointed a high level committee under the Chairmanship of the Home Secretary Shri Padmanabhaiya for this purpose. Despite these measures, the nexus between politicians, government officials and criminals continues unabated as is evident from the Tahelka dot com episode and the Bihar Panchayat Poll violence.
Of late, there has been a general tendency on the part of political parties in power to set up commissions of inquiry, specially if big-wigs are involved, to save them rather than to punish the guilty. The inquiry drags on for years and finally the guilty escapes scot-free due to their political links.
Thus, the Commission to probe into the Tahelka Tape story on corruption in defence deals was appointed in January, 2003 but withdrawn on October 31st, 2004 and its proceedings were quashed. Similarly the multi-crore fake stamp paper scam master minded by Abul Karim Telgi allegedly involving” 3 or 4 top politicians is being probed since 2003 but with no substantial results.