Rule against defacement not being used

NEW DELHI, MAY 20. The inefficiency of enforcement agencies and gross ignorance about rules and regulations have been primarily responsible for the massive defacement of public places in the Capital.

Hardly any senior official of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the New Delhi Municipal Council or the Delhi Government is aware of an Act in this regard whose violation can lead to imprisonment up to six months.

It was this West Bengal Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1976, extended to Delhi which was used effectively by the then Lieutenant-Governor and the present Union Urban Development Minister, Mr. Jagmohan, during the Asian Games in early 80s.

The Act defines defacement as impairing or interfering with the appearance or beauty, damaging, disfiguring, spoiling or injuring any property including building, hut, structures, wall, tree, fence post or pole.

As per the Act, whosoever defaces any property in public view by way of writing, marking with ink, chalk, paint or other materials shall be punishable for the maximum jail term of six months and a fine of Rs. 1,000. However, the owners or occupiers are exempted from this Act for indicating their name and address.

Whenever such defacement occurs for the benefit of a person, an organisation, an association or a political party, it is their president, chairman, director, partner or the manager who would be prosecuted for this cognizable offence, the Act says.

Curiously, no action is being taken against large-scale defacement of public places, despite it being in promulgation for nearly two decades now. Senior MCD officials were unable to give figures on how many people have been persecuted under this Act in the past one year.

It is understood that the Union Urban Development Minister, has been drawing the attention of the Lt.-Governor, Mr. Vijai Kapoor, for the past seven months towards this Act. The letter was first written in September 2000, followed by reminders in November, January and February.

Pointing to these posters, banners and writing on the wall, Mr. Jagmohan said no action had been initiated for the strict enforcement of this Act. It was high time that persecution was started by the civic authorities, otherwise it might become too late, he warned.

Insiders in the MCD said Mr. Kapoor had recently convened a meeting of all officials concerned following which he issued instructions for taking action against defacement of public places and enforcement of the West Bengal Prevention of Defacement of Property Act, 1976.

``No persecution notice has been issued so far. We are now in the process of formulating an action plan to enforce this Act,'' conceded a senior MCD official.