Home to dilute new property
destruction Bill, exclude political leaders
Express, July 17, 2017
Ministry, however, may bring other changes in the Bill’s
language to specify that leaders of political outfits should
exercise “due diligence” to prevent damage to public property,
Ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament starting Monday, the
Union Home Ministry is reworking the proposed Prevention of
Destruction of Public Property (PDPP) Amendment Bill to exclude
provisions that hold leaders of political parties responsible
for such damage, official sources told The Indian Express.
The move runs contrary to the ministry’s stand in 2015, when it
had argued for severe measures to hold leaders of political
parties accountable for damage to public property caused during
bandhs, protests and demonstrations called by them. It had also
pushed for the parties to pay the market value of property
destroyed by their supporters.
Government sources said the rethink was prompted by suggestions
made during consultations with states, when law enforcement
agencies expressed the fear that the amended law may be misused
to frame Opposition leaders who call for bandhs, by inciting
violence and damaging property. “They are aware that by doing
this, they may be able to send their political opponents behind
bars,” said an official.
The Home Ministry, however, may bring other changes in the
Bill’s language to specify that leaders of political outfits
should exercise “due diligence” to prevent damage to public
property, said officials.
“We plan to emphasise on improving the quality of evidence,
which will require police officers to record on video all
protests, hartal or bandhs,” said an official. The soft copies
of video evidence will be deposited by the officer in charge at
the local police station with the sub-divisional magistrate or
executive magistrate who will hand it over to the investigating
officer, said officials.
In 2007, the Supreme Court had asked the government to bring
amendments to the PDPP Act. While appointing a committee to
examine the law, the apex court had observed in 2009: “In almost
all such cases, top leaders of such organisations who really
instigate such direct actions will keep themselves in the
background, and only the ordinary or common members or grassroot-level
followers directly participate, and they alone would be
vulnerable to prosecution proceedings.”
Officials said the remarks were not a rule, and that a judge’s
expression of opinion in court or in a written judgment is not
legally binding as a precedent.
The Bill may also
include a provision to make such offences non-bailable unless
“there are reasonable grounds to believe that (the accused) is
not guilty”. However, the provision to include “damage to
private properties” is likely to be dropped in the reworked
Bill, since they are covered under different insurance schemes.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Tamil Nadu
(1,671), Uttar Pradesh (1,131) and Haryana (529) recorded the
highest number of cases under the PDPP Act in 2015.
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