Maharashtra cabinet has approved an Ordinance to amend the Police Act apparently making a political party or an organisation liable for damages caused to property by its workers. The finer details need to be examined. I had argued for a similar proposal in the aftermath of the Gujarat pogrom. On the face of it, I think, the idea is a good one, provided
(a) it does not become a tool to gag non-violent protest,
(b) does not become an alternative to criminal prosecution for violence,
(c) targets the ‘leaders’ and the organising party behind the agitation rather than the foot-soldiers,
(d) compensates for damages to private as well as public interests and includes not just violence against property but also against persons.
If anyone has access to full-text of the Ordinance, please post it here.
Update – Venkatesan helpfully draws attention to the Thomas Committee, which has been tasked by the Supreme Court to look into the precise question of tackling political violence. A previous post mentioned this committee, but there is still no news on when it is submitting its report (if it hasn’t done so already).
Update II – It is rather ironic that the first political organisation to have received compensation under the new law is the VHP – the case does indicate that political parties are fined rather than foot-soldiers, which is a good thing. And if this first case is anything to go by, the implementation mechanism appears to be unbiased. The news report also mentions that violence against public as well as private property will invite compensation orders. Only, the sum of compensation ordered – Rs. 20,000/- seems to be too small to have any deterrent effect (but perhaps, the cumulative effect for a regular offender may be deterrent).