The Union Home Ministry has proposed a set of amendments to the PDPP act, 1984 that seek to deter prospective violators from damaging public property during agitations and also make the office bearers of the organizations calling for such agitations responsible for any damage. These amendments follow the recommendations made by the Justice K T Thomas committee setup by the Supreme Court while dealing with a writ petition on this issue.
Damage to Public Property during violent protests is common place across the country. Public Transport Buses and other Public Property are the first victims during such protests. The government of India now proposes to the amend the ‘Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984’ (PDPP) to put in place proper deterrents so as to prevent damage to public property.
Taking a serious note of various instances where there was large scale destruction of public and private properties in the name of agitations, bandhs, hartals and the like, suo motu proceedings were initiated by a Bench of the Supreme Court in 2007. The court appointed two different committees, one headed by former supreme court judge, Justice K T Thomas and the other headed by Mr. Fali S Nariman. The Justice K T Thomas committee made the following recommendations.
- The PDPP Act must be amended to incorporate a rebuttable presumption that the accused is guilty of the offence after the prosecution proves that public property has been damaged in a direct action called by any organization.
- The PDPP Act to contain provision to make the leaders of the organization, which calls the direct action, guilty of abetment of the offence.
- Enable the police officers to arrange videography of the activities damaging public property
The court accepted these recommendations. The court also issued certain guidelines for effecting preventive action. It said, as soon as a demonstration is organized,
- The organizer shall meet the police to review and revise the route to be taken and to lay down conditions for a peaceful march or protest
- All weapons, including knives, lathis and the like shall be prohibited
- An undertaking is to be provided by the organizers to ensure a peaceful march with marshals at each relevant junction
- The police and State Government shall ensure videograph of such protests to the maximum extent possible
- The person in charge to supervise the demonstration shall be the SP (if the situation is confined to the district) and the highest police officer in the State, where the situation stretches beyond one district
- In the event that demonstrations turn violent, the officer-in-charge shall ensure that the events are videographed through private operators and also request such further information from the media and others on the incidents in question.
- The police shall immediately inform the State Government with reports on the events, including damage, if any, caused.
- The State Government shall prepare a report on the police reports and other information that may be available to it and shall file a petition including its report in the High Court or Supreme Court as the case may be for the Court in question to take suo motu action.
The other committee made recommendations for Police to enforce their duties and to the media.
Major Amendments Proposed
The Union Home Ministry has accepted the recommendations of the Justice K T Thomas committee and has proposed amendments to the PDPP act, 1984 to deter prospective violators from vandalizing and destroying public/private property during agitations and other forms of protests. The proposed amendments also seek to deter the office bearers of the organizations who call for this protests/agitation. In this regard, it has issued a circular on 20th May, 2015.
What can we do?
If any of us have any suggestions/comments on these proposed amendments, we can do so by 20th July, 2015. The suggestions/comments can be sent to Ministry of Home Affairs, CS Division, 5th Floor, NDCC Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi -110001. The suggestions can also be sent on email to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Circular of Union Home Ministry dated 20th May, 2015
- Supreme Court Judgement in Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 77 of 2007