The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984

The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 shall deem to be enforced from 29th January, 1984. The act specifically lays provisions for preventing damage to public property and any other matter concerned therewith. The Act is in consonance with Article 51 (g) sub clause (f) of the Indian Constitution which bestows Fundamental duty on the citizens of India to preserve and protect the National Heritage. The Act is an important piece of legislation since it aims at protecting and conservation of the national monuments in India.

Public Property under sub clause (b) of section 2 shall mean and include all public property movable, immovable or machinery in control and possession of Central and State Government, local authority, company, corporation and institution.

Section 3 of the act divides punishment with respect to causing mischief with public property in to two parts. The first part specifically relates to commission of mischief with respect to any public property the punishment shall extend to five years and fine. Part two of the section specifically provides for punishment for commission of mischief with respect to any building concerned with production, distribution or supply of water, electricity, power or energy; oil refineries or any other oil installations; sewage plants; factory and mines; public transportation; telecommunications or any building or installation in connection to aforementioned shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment of not less than six months extending to five years and with fine.

Whenever damage is caused by explosive substances or fire the act shall be punished by imprisonment of one year extending to ten years and with fine under section 4. Depending on gravity of offence the punishment shall be decided. In case person is convicted for less than one year the judge shall record reason in writing for doing so.

Kerala High Court in S.Sudin vs The Union Of India and Others, The writ petition arise from a series of petitions of similar nature pertaining to damage caused to public property during strikes and bands. The Judgement was delivered by full bench over the damage caused to public property during hartals (strikes) and bundhs. It was directed that the members of political parties, individuals and organizers of strikes should refrain from such hartals and bundhs which cause damage to public property. The Court issued writ of mandamus directing the respondents to compensate persons who suffered losses since the government failed to protect life and property of citizens. It was also held that holding of harthal or bundh is an act of criminal intimidation which affect public order and security of the nation and is punishable under section 503 of Indian Penal Code. The court however did not ban strikes but laid certain guidelines for holding such strikes so that public life is not disturbed. It was directed to the Government to employ proper steps so as to ensure that public and private property is protected, besides the safety of the citizen. Further it was directed to media sources such as new-channels,  news papers  shall not broadcast hartals and bundhs and also that the State authorities shall recover and realize compensation for the damages caused to the public and private property from the political parties, organization calling hartal as per the Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act, 1984.

The act further lays that no person convicted for an offence under section 3 and 4 shall be released on personal bond. Such person may be released on his own bond incase reasonable opportunity to oppose has been granted to prosecution. The provisions given under the act are in addition to any other provision of similar nature given under any other law.

The Act is an effort to protect property both public and private which gets damaged specially during public gatherings, strikes, bundhs. There is stringent punishment under the Act against all person causing damage and shall all persons, including political parties, organizations etc.

by Vibhuti Nakta.