SC on Destruction of Properties and Harm to Life due to Protests


November 30, 2017

Koshy Jacob v. Union of India & ors.


Date of Judgment- November 29, 2017

The crucial aspect of destruction of properties and harm and injury to human life was recently taken by the Supreme Court in a case wherein the Petitioner a lawyer approached the Court aggrieved by an incident where he was forced to spend more than 12 hours on road after being discharged from hospital post surgery on account of an on-going agitation.

In the case, the Petitioner appraoched the Supreme Court for implementation of guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Destruction of Public and Private Properties, In Re v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Others1. In the case the Court had issued guidelines in view of destruction of public and properties on account of agitations and protests. The guidelines inter alia included that weapons, including knives, lathis shall be prohibited and undertaking is to be provided by the organizers to ensure a peaceful march with marshals at each relevant junction.

The Petitioner contended that large number of strikes/agitations have taken place resulting in destruction of public property and also resulting in violation of fundamental right of the people for which suitable remedy is not available to the aggrieved victims.

That there has been non-compliance of guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in Destruction of Public and Private Properties case (supra) and the Committees appointed by this Court in the above case also recommended statutory amendments for making those sponsoring such agitations accountable and punishable under the criminal law and also requiring preventive and remedial actions such as videography of all the activities and award for damages. However, no legislation or speedy mechanism has been put in place so far which appears to be the reason for this petition.

The Centre in the case stated that process has been initiated for amendment of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 and a draft has also been published for public. The Centre also admitted the fact that there was an undoubted need for preventive and remedial measures to be adopted to deal with such situations.

Bench’s Verdict- Taking note of the nuisance created due to protests and agitations and y subsequent loss to publis and private property,the Court made following recommendations to the Centre:

That a Law may be formulated to provide for speedy mechanism for criminal liability, action for administrative failures as well as remedies to the victims.

That one or more district/additional district Judges can be appointed by the State Government in consultation with the High Court to deal with such issue either on whole-time basis or on part-time basis, as the situation may require.

1(2009) 5 SCC 212