Govt introduces bill to criminalize property damage in protests

Govt introduces bill to criminalize property damage in protests

Tarigami calls it ''draconian''

The Opposition on Monday termed the bill seeking amendments in the Jammu and Kashmir Public Property (Prevention of Damage) Act as “most draconian” as government introduced it in the Assembly. According to rights groups, the bill criminalizes all modes of protest.

The bill was introduced by minister for Parliamentary Affairs Abdul RehmanVeeri on behalf of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is minister in-charge of the Home department. The bill has been mooted by the Home department.

Making a brief intervention, senior legislator and MLA Kulgam M Y Tarigami said, “It is the most draconian legislation.”

Senior National Conference leader Ali Muhammad Sagar said he has demanded that the bill should be sent to a select committee. “I have submitted an amendment in this regard,” he said.

The bill was introduced to replace the ordinance that was promulgated by Governor N N Vohra last year on the recommendations of the J&K Government.

The legislation makes persons calling for shutdowns, demonstrations or other forms of protest, wherein properties are damaged, liable for imprisonment and fine.

“Whosoever calls for a direct action, whether he participates in such an action directly or indirectly which results in damage to private and public property, shall be deemed to be guilty of abetment the offence under the Act,” reads the bill.

The direct action, according to the bill, means the use of strikes, demonstrations or other public forms of public protests rather than negotiation to achieve a demand.

The rights groups have slammed the bill saying it criminalizes all modes of protests and dissent. They argue that if damage to property takes place during a protest, its organisers or leaders can be booked even if they are at home. “Even if the violence during the protest has been carried out by anti-social elements, who have nothing to do with the protest, the leaders or organisers of the protest will be held guilty,” they said.