New mechanism to deal with property destruction cases

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, AUG. 1. The State police have put in place an `institutionalised' mechanism for `effectively' charge-sheeting Public Property Destruction Act (PPDA) and rioting cases registered in connection with hartals, demonstrations and agitations.

According to top officials, the mechanism is based on various judgments of the High Court of Kerala and the Supreme Court for recovering the damages caused to public property during agitations.

The new system was proposed after it was found that follow-up action by the police in PPDA and rioting cases "lacked teeth". Scores of PPDA cases, majority of them registered several years ago, were seen pending in police stations. The charge-sheets had not been filed as the accused have not been identified or those identified could not be arrested. The common practice of successive Governments to withdraw PPDA cases registered against political activists in connection with violent agitations had also adversely affected the prosecution of PPDA and rioting cases, an official said.

The new system

The new system insists that the charge-sheets in all PPDA cases be filed within one month of the occurrence of the crime. The Deputy Superintendents of Police (Narcotic Cell) in all districts will monitor the progress of the cases. The Dy. SPs have been asked to prepare the list of persons who figure as accused in more than one PPDA case in order to initiate security proceedings against them under Section 107 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Those facing security proceedings would have to execute a bond before the Revenue Divisional Officer stating that he or she would not indulge in any breach of peace. In the event of violation of the bond, the accused could be arrested and remanded or asked to remit the bond amount.

Filing FIR

While registering First Information Reports (FIRs) in PPDA cases, the Station House Officers have been instructed to include the `maximum' number of accused persons identified by their name and address. Other than the actual perpetrators of the violence, those persons at whose `exhortation' the damage or destruction to public property was caused would also figure as accused in the FIR. The police would open a separate register for entering the details of witnesses in PPDA cases. An official said the police would rely on video evidence for charge-sheeting the cases. A competent official will also assess the quantum of damage.

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