Strict action against people who destroy national property
The Supreme Court stated that it cannot allow any individual or organization to burn or destroy nation's property during protests and let the country pay-the-price. The statement was issued during Hardik Patel's plea hearing challenging sedition charges filed against him in the Patel reservation agitation. The recent Jats' reservation agitation in Haryana caused losses of over Rs.34,000 crore to the north Indian states.
The Prevention of Damage to Public Property (PDPP) Act, 1984 deals with the offences pertaining to the damage caused to public property. For instance, punishment for causing damage to public property by fire can be imprisonment up to a maximum of 10 years.
Taking cognizance of various instances involving large scale destruction of public and private properties in the name of protests, Supreme Court initiated suo moto proceedings. This came after the Gurjjar agitation which led to violent incidents including destruction of property. The court also constituted two committees - one headed by Justice K.T. Thomas and other by Fali S Nariman to look into the issue.
The Justice Thomas Committee suggested measures on strict compliance of PDPP act. The committee suggested, "the PDPP Act should contain provision to make the leaders of the organization, which calls the direct action, guilty of abetment of the offence." It suggested that apart from penalty of imprisonment, the court should be empowered to impose a fine, equal to market value of the damaged property.
Supreme court issued a series of guidelines seeking to (i) change the evidentiary requirements for proving the commission of an offence under the PDPP Act. (ii) empower the police to enable them to better perform their statutory duties under the Police Act, 1861 and the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. (iii) to create a special purpose vehicle for assessing and awarding damages in riot cases.
On 20 May 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs communicated that it had decided to accept the recommendations of the Justice K.T. Thomas Committee and invited suggestions from the public and other stakeholders, for proposed amendments to the PDPP Act, 1984.
The government plans to bring damage to 'private properties' during demonstrations under the ambit of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Bill, 2016. The decision to include private properties was taken after Home Ministry invited suggestions from the public on draft amendments. The final call on whether to include 'private properties' in the bill will be taken by the Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The Supreme Court said that it would issue fresh guidelines regarding damage claims for destruction of public property during political agitations. SC sought Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi's assistance in laying down these guidelines. The court was hearing an appeal of Hardik Patel-the Patidar leader. It said that judicial intervention was required to deal with issue of arson committed during quota agitation Patel had launched.