The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Uttar Pradesh is rampantly misusing the provisions of the Goondas Act, the Allahabad High Court has said, Bar and Bench reported on Thursday.

The Goondas Act allows the government to oust an individual from the city as a preventive measure.

In an order passed on August 10, a division bench of Justices Rahul Chaturvedi and Mohd Azhar Husain Idrisi noted that there is no uniformity in different districts when it comes to invoking the deterrent law.

The court directed the Adityanath-led government in the state to establish uniform guidelines to prevent any abuse of the Goondas Act by October 31.

The High Court was hearing a plea filed by a man named 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.

During the hearing, the court said that a person can only be branded a “goonda”, or goon, if they are habitual offenders or part of a gang that habitually commits offences. It added that one or two trivial or insignificant offences would not make a person liable to be branded as a “goonda”.

“This adjective ‘goonda’ itself carries a bundle load of bad name, and the executive authorities casually and irresponsibly brand a person as a ‘goonda’,” the judges said, according to Bar and Bench. “[It] goes without saying, that his entire future and reputation would go to dogs and cause irreparable damage to his name and reputation of his family.”

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

The state government, however, contended that there were at least two or three more cases against Govardhan.

“The court cannot take the judicial notice of those additional cases,” the High Court said, according to Bar and Bench. “We cannot permit this hide-and-seek practice with the proposed ‘goonda’ i.e. the petitioner.”

The High Court also said that the state executive authorities must practice extreme caution and thoroughly verify the background of an accused before issuing notices under the Goondas Act.

Besides, it also recorded a “strong displeasure” against the routine use of the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters and Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986, emphasising that it is being used in the “most capricious and casual way”.