It often happens that a protest or a demonstration turns violent and the mob goes out of control and incurs damage to the public as well as private property in light of such severe damage to the public property the Union of India introduced an Act called the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 . (PDPP Act)
The motive for introduction of this Act was to provide for prevention of damage of public property and by bringing in a legislation, the government intended to curb the menace created by such protests in the Country.
Explanation of the Act:-
Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 defines the public property as any property owned by the State or Central governments, or any institution wholly owned by Central and State Government collectively or individually.
Section (3) of the Act, provides that any person who damages such public property will be punished with imprisonment which may extend upto 5 years or with fine.
The Act has also made special provisions regarding bail wherein no person can be released on a personal bond unless the prosecution has been given an opportunity to oppose such bail.
The Act under S.(4) provides for stringent punishment i.e Imprisonment upto 10 years if fire or explosive substance are used for damaging such public property.
Inspite of such stringent act of law, the Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance of the deteriorating law and order situation in the country mainly prevalent due to destruction and disruption caused by bandhs, hartals, etc., which then introduced guidelines for dealing with such instances.
Introduction of Supreme Court Guidelines:-
Taking suo moto cognizance the Supreme Court appointed two committees one headed by Justice (Retd.) K. T. Thomas and another headed by Mr. F. S. Nariman (Sr. Adv) .
Justice Thomas’s Committee recommended that,
- If the prosecution is able to prove of any damage to property and involvement of such accused at the time of damage a rebuttable presumption can be made that the accused was involved, in order to bring about such presumption the committee recommended amendment to the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act.
- Adding an additional provision to the PDPP Act to prosecute leaders of such organisation who provoked such rioters for taking such action against the State’s and Private property.
- Enable police officers present at the site of such riot/demonstration to arrange videography of such activities by hiring such videographers and taking their service if required at a short notice.
Sr. Adv. Mr. F. S. Nariman’s Committee recommended that,
- The Nariman Committee mainly emphasised on the principle of restitution in interregenum, which means restitution to the original position i.e. the injured party be brought to the same level as it was before by penalising the damaging party.
- Damage caused by such rioters will be extracted from them and paid to the concerned public and private parties concerned.
- Matter pertaining to one particular state may be taken up by the High Court suo motu, where more than one state involved matter may be taken by the Supreme Court.
- The High Court or the Supreme Court as the case may be, appoint a Claims Commissioner for assessing the damage caused by such rioters
- Liability of such damage to be shared by the perpetrators of the crime and organisers of such crime.
- Exemplary damages may be awarded, not greater than twice the amount of damages to be paid.
In case the High Court does not take Suo Motu action in such case, the Government of such state can approach the High Court of that State with a PIL demanding setting up of a Claims Commission to assess damages caused by such riots and such compensation be recovered from rioters.