· NEW ACT MAKES SUCH OFFENCE NON-BAILABLE, PROVIDES FOR STRINGENT PUNISHMENT
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has ordered strict enforcement of the recently notified Punjab Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property Act-2014 in the wake of the Dera violence, which witnessed sporadic violence even in the state, leading to damage to property in various places.
The Act, which was notified in June this year after receiving Presidential consent following consultations with seven different central ministers, makes any act of lawlessness, arson or rioting leading to damage to property a non-bailable offence.
Stringent provisions have been provided in the Act, aimed at preventing such violence, with the guilty liable to imprisonment and fine, as well as payment of compensation, according to an official spokesperson.
The legislation clearly provides that no person, accused of an offence punishable under this Act, shall, if he is in custody, be released on bail on furnishing his bail bond unless the prosecution has been given opportunity to oppose the bail application of such release. The offence committed under this act, shall be cognizable.
The procedure for arrest and trial has also been made more stringent and it is provided that a police officer, not below the rank of head constable, shall be competent to arrest the organizer or the participant found to be involved in the commission of offences under this Act. No court inferior to the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate shall try any offence committed under this act.
Punishment for such an offence will be imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, and also fine, which may extend to Rs 1 lakh. In the case of damage caused to property by fire or explosive substance, the imprisonment may be extended to two years and fine may go up to Rs 3 lakh under the provisions of the legislation. Only in special cases, to be recorded in writing, can imprisonment be less than one year.
Further, the offender will be liable to make payment of an amount equivalent to the loss caused to the public or private property, as determined by the competent authority. While determining the loss or damage, the competent authority, shall make assessment of damage, caused to the public or private property, and cause to recover the same from the organizer and the participants of the damaging act, found guilty, as arrears of land revenue.
In another step towards strengthening the law in such cases, it is provided that notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, the video-graphic version of the damaging act recorded on the spot, shall be considered as sufficient evidence of the offence committed and the damage caused to the public or private property.
The provisions of this Act shall be, in addition to, and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law, for the time being in force, and nothing contained in this Act, shall exempt any person from any proceedings (whether by way of investigation or otherwise), which might apart from this Act, be instituted or taken against him. The Act clearly defines the Public and Private properties, which can be attached by the competent authority.
The Act stipulates 'competent authority' means an authority constituted under section 7 by the State Government. Under the provisions of legislation, 'damaging act' includes an act, agitation, strike, hartal, dharna, bandh or demonstration or march or procession or blockade of rail or road traffic by any individual, group of individuals, organization, any party whether social, religious or political, by which any damage or loss or destruction is caused to any public or private property. 'Organizer' shall include any person or persons or office bearers of any organization, union or party, who arrange, instigate, conspire, advise or guide for doing any damaging act.