Damage of public property act being amended after Jat stir

From ET Realty

NEW DELHI: After the recent Jat and Patidar protests in Haryana and Gujarat, respectively, the home ministry is expediting a bill to amend the Damage of Public Property Act, 1984, to ensure that agitators are made to pay monetary compensation for wanton acts during a stir. The bill has remained stuck for the last 8 years, even as the latest agitation by Jats in Haryana is estimated to have caused a loss of nearly Rs 2,000 crore, including losses of private entities.

Amendments to the bill were planned after the Supreme Court in 2007 directed the government to penalise organisations for damages caused after a bandh or strike. Proposed amendments in the Act was mooted during the UPA regime but the bill did not see the light of day due to Parliament logjams.

“The amendments once cleared may be introduced in the ongoing Budget session, though it cannot be applied with retrospective effect,” a senior home ministry official said. The amendments may also include damage to private properties not covered by insurance.

The week-long protests by Jats in Haryana witnessed damages to shops and outlets including McDonald’s and showrooms of Chevrolet, Hyundai, Toyota and Honda. Schools and educational institutions of non-Jat communities too were vandalised.

According to MHA, the amended law will hold leaders of political parties and other organisations liable for damages. They may face a jail term too for properties damaged during a bandh or protest. The home ministry has suggested, “fine shall be equivalent to the market values of the public property damaged.” It has also suggested that cops videograph demonstration and deposit copies with the SDM.

Another amendment was insertion of a Section 4B that will addrress ‘abetment of mischief’. According to this new clause, “where damage to public property is caused in consequences of demonstration, hartal or bandh called by any organisation, office-bearers of such organisation shall be deemed guilty of the commission of the offence of abetment of an offence punishable under this Act and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

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