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Damaging govt properties in Bengal could invite hefty fines, up to 7-year jail term

In a first of its kind measure in the country, the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government has decided to frame stringent laws against those damaging government properties.

In addition to an increase in the quantum of fine in case of damage to property, the term of imprisonment would go also up to a maximum of seven years. The Bengal government will soon introduce a Bill to implement the above-mentioned measures in the forthcoming session of the Assembly.

It may be mentioned that while addressing the Khadya Sathi Divas programme at Red Road last Friday, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had sent out a stern message to miscreants who damage and set government properties ablaze.

According to sources at Nabanna, concerned officers are busy preparing the draft of the Bill that will be placed in the Assembly.

At present, a person who gets arrested on charges of damaging property has to pay fine as per the Court's order. When the new law comes into force, the offender will have to pay a fine equivalent to the market price of the damaged property.

At the same time, the maximum period for which the accused will be sent behind bars for damaging property would also go up. Currently, an offender gets imprisoned for a maximum for six months for damaging property. The quantum of punishment will become a minimum of six months and a maximum seven years, sources said.

There have been numerous incidents in the state in the recent past where both public and private properties, worth crores of rupees, have been damaged.

A week ago, a mob damaged and set on fire a total of 12 police vehicles at Bhangar in South 24 Parganas.

After setting ablaze the police vans, the mob damaged and pushed the remaining vehicles into roadside ditches. Public property worth around Rs 2.35 crore was damaged in Bhangar.

The incident had taken place when villagers were instigated to protest against the setting up of a power grid sub-station.

The measure has been planned to check the loss to the state's exchequer, by restricting people from damaging public property "in the name of building up a protest on any issue".

According to legal experts, the increase in quantum of punishment would help reduce the frequency of such incidents. People will think twice before taking such steps, knowing that they could have to languish in jail for years.
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