CHANDIGARH: Beware agitating unions, employees and activists. The Punjab government on Tuesday passed the Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property Bill, according to which a dharna, bandh or demonstration leading to blockade of rail or road traffic will now attract a fine of Rs 1 lakh and a punishment up to a year in jail.
In case of damage to public or private property by fire or explosives, the fine and imprisonment may go up to Rs 3 lakh and two years.
The bill, introduced by Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal in the Vidhan Sabha, was passed despite opposition by the Congress. What upset many legislators was that even a head constable has been given the right to arrest demonstrators.
The Congress also objected to the clause regarding “damaging act”. It includes a strike, hartal or march or procession that may result in damage or loss or destruction caused to any public or private property.
“This is a draconian law. The Punjab government wants that no one should protest or demonstrate against their policies,” said Sunil Jakhar, leader of opposition, and Punjab Congress president Partap Bajwa.
Sukhbir Badal, however, said this was being done only on the directions of the Supreme Court. “Whatever we are doing is on the directions of the apex court. It is not possible to have no law to manage such situations,” he told the house.
The offences committed under the Act shall be non-bailable and cognizable.
This is the second time the bill has been passed. The earlier version of the bill, introduced in 2010, had made protests a non-bailable offence but it was withdrawn by Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal within a year of it being passing after protests by the Congress and the general public.
By Rohan Dua TOI