Compelling offenders to deposit the estimated value of the public property damaged by them as a condition for granting bail would definitely work as a deterrent against such acts, the Law Commission has said.
Headed by Justice (retired) Ritu Raj Awasthi, the panel also suggested that a comprehensive law should be put in place to address the issue of protests creating wilful obstruction and blocking public spaces and roads for prolonged periods.
The commission recommended that either a new comprehensive law dealing with prolonged obstructions be enacted or a specific provision pertaining to the same be introduced in the Indian Penal Code or the Bharatiya Nyay Sanhita by way of an amendment.
“Fear of conviction and sentence in criminal cases relating to the offences under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act may not act as a sufficient deterrence against destruction of public property. Compelling the offenders to deposit the estimated value of the public property as a condition for granting bail would definitely be a sufficient deterrent against destruction of public property,” it told the government.
It proposed amendments to the 1984 law to make the bail condition stringent.
The commission took up the issue on its own.
It also proposed a new clause in the law relating to abetment of mischief.
“Where damage to public property is caused in consequence of demonstration, hartal or bandh called by any organisation, the office-bearers of such organisation shall be deemed to be guilty of the commission of the offence of abetment an offence punishable under this Act…,” it read.
Public property is the bedrock of a nation’s infrastructure, providing the essential framework for economic, social, and cultural development, it said.
“However, the deliberate and unlawful damage inflicted upon public assets has emerged as a huge concern highlighting a profound challenge to the legal and developmental landscape,” it noted.
The commission referred to the recent “ethnic violence” in Manipur, protests against farm laws, Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013, the Patidar reservation agitation of 2015 and others to drive home the point that such episodes are “a tale of scale of loss and destruction”.
It lamented that “unfortunately, instances of damage to public property have become a growing phenomenon, posing a significant threat to the overall development of an individual as well as the whole nation.” “Such acts not only disrupt the smooth functioning of essential services but also undermine the collective efforts aimed at uplifting economic growth, social cohesion, and public welfare,” the commission noted.
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