New Delhi: The National Law Commission has submitted a report to the Union Law Ministry, recommending stringent provisions in cases involving vandalism of public and private properties, following the Kerala model. The report highlights a provision in Kerala wherein individuals responsible for destroying public property are required to deposit an amount equivalent to the loss caused by their vandalism.
The Commission has expressed the opinion that, owing to this provision in Kerala mandated by an order from the Kerala High Court, the destruction of public property in the state during hartals and protests has effectively ceased. Furthermore, the Commission has proposed the enactment of a comprehensive new law nationwide, incorporating the recommended provisions or integrating them into the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS).
Destruction of public property
1. The leaders of the organization initiating protests leading to the destruction of public property will be held accountable for incitement to crime. Alternatively, they must establish their lack of awareness or efforts to prevent such actions.
2. Bail is to be granted solely upon the deposit of an amount equivalent to the loss caused by the vandalism. If the calculation of the amount is not possible, the court reserves the right to determine it. This provision applies to fines imposed as well.
3. The police are mandated to videograph programmes and events which has the potential to destroy public property.
Destruction of private property
1. The Kerala Prevention of Damage to Private Property and Payment of Compensation Act, 2019, passed by Kerala can be modelled.
2. Necessary amendments can be brought in the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.
Obstruction of public places
1. There should be a comprehensive law against causing suffering and loss to people by blocking National Highways, railways etc.
2. The government may consider the prohibition of disruptive programmes in public spaces.
Defamation should remain a criminal offence
Meanwhile, the National Law Commission has recommended that defamation should continue to be a criminal offence. Additionally, it supports the imposition of social service as a penalty in defamation cases, following the new Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.
The report, submitted by the Commission’s chairman, Ritu Raj Awasthi, underscores that this form of punishment is rooted in the careful balance between an individual’s dignity and another person’s freedom of expression. In 2017, the central government tasked the Commission with examining various provisions related to defamation laws.