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Cabinet gives approval to make J&K Property Damage Act more stringent

Those abetting action without direct involvement to be punished

New provisions on pvt property, punishment being included
Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Oct 4: Keeping in mind the spells of violence and unrest particularly in Kashmir valley, the Government is going to make Jammu and Kashmir Public Property (Prevention of Damage) Act, 1985 more stringent by incorporating several new provisions aimed to curb undesirable activities of individuals and organizations.
The proposal to amend the Act was cleared by the State Cabinet, which met under the chairpersonship of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti yesterday. Now, the Government will approach the Governor for issuance of Ordinance in order to ensure prompt implementation of new provisions. The Ordinance route is being adopted as the State Legislature is not in session.
With these amendments, not only private property will come under the purview of the Act but those abetting damage to private or public property even without direct involvement in the offences will face action which includes imprisonment of minimum two years as against earlier provision of only one year minimum imprisonment.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that Government has observed that during the spells of violence in Kashmir valley not only property of State and Central Governments even private property suffered extensive damage. Moreover, it was observed that several provisions of the existing J&K Public Property (Prevention of Damage) Act, 1985 were not stringent enough to ensure deterrence as such need was felt to carry out necessary amendments in the Act.
The proposed amendments were thoroughly debated in the Cabinet meeting yesterday and finally sanction was accorded to the promulgation of Ordinance to amend the law for effective prevention of the undesirable activities of individuals and organizations relating to the damage to public and private properties and connected matters, sources informed.
Under the amendments cleared by the Cabinet, the use of strikes, demonstrations or other public forms of protests rather than negotiation to achieve a demand has been brought under the purview of the Act. Under Section 4 of the Act, several sub-sections are being incorporated to ensure that whosoever commits mischief in respect of any private or public property due to direct action, whether declared or not, shall be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than two years but which may extend to five years and with fine equivalent to the market value of the property damaged or destroyed. In case of default in payment of fine, the imprisonment for a further period of six months will be awarded.
Stating that this is one of the most stringent provisions being incorporated in the Act, sources said, “under the existing Act there is provision for rigorous imprisonment for a minimum of one year only. Moreover, no amount of fine has been defined under the present Act”.
Abetment of offence will also be new provision in the Act, they said while disclosing that under this proposed provision, whosoever calls for a direct action, whether he participates in such direct action directly or indirectly which results in damage to private or public property shall be deemed to be guilty of abetment of the offence under the Act.
Moreover, whosoever will be found guilty of abetment of an offence under the amended Act will be punished with imprisonment which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to three years and with fine equivalent to the market value of the property damaged or destroyed and in case of default in payment of fine, he shall be liable to suffer imprisonment for a further period of one year.
Disclosing that even provision regarding evidence is being incorporated in the Act, sources said, it has been proposed that the police officer who has the responsibility to act on the information that a direct action is imminent and if he has reason to apprehend that such direct action has the potential of causing destruction of private or public property, he shall immediately avail the services of the videographer to accompany him to the site wherefrom video shooting can conveniently be arranged concentrating on the persons indulging in any act of violence or other acts causing destruction or damage to any private or public property.
“The evidence so collected through videography shall be an evidence within the meaning of Section 3 of the Evidence Act, 1977”, sources further said while disclosing that even provisions relating to grant of bail have been made more stringent.
They informed that no person shall be guilty of an offence under the Act if he proves that he was in no way connected with the action called by his political party or organization and he has taken all reasonable measures to prevent causing damage to private or public property in the direct action called by his organization.

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