The Union Home Ministry has proposed a set of amendments to the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984’ (PDPP) 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 PDPP Act 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 recommended:
1. The PDPP Act to contain provision to make the leaders of the organization, which calls the direct action, guilty of abetment of the offence.
2. 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:
1. 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
2. All weapons, including knives, lathis and the like shall be prohibited
3. An undertaking is to be provided by the organizers to ensure a peaceful march with marshals at each relevant junction
4. The police and State Government shall ensure videography of such protests to the maximum extent possible
5.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.