Amidst rising cases of snatching where victims not only lose their articles, but also their lives, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the Centre, the Delhi government and the city police on a PIL highlighting how snatchers in Delhi are booked under trivial penal provisions treating snatching as petty theft.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar issued notice to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, Lieutenant Governor, Delhi government and Commissioner of Police and the municipal corporations on the PIL which also called for proper manning public spaces like parks where most of such crimes are committed.
The PIL has been filed by advocate Prashant Manchanda, who highlighted how snatching was not a crime in isolation, but sets off a series of heinous offences against women, including molestation, attempt to murder and even death of the victims.
“The snatchers are wreaking havoc on the public spaces of Delhi causing imminent threat to the life and liberty of citizens and foreign nationals,” he said.
Prashant brought to the court’s attention whopping rise of 413 per cent in cases of snatching in Delhi and drew relation between how treating snatching as a petty offence of theft was emboldening snatchers.
He said the police books snatchers for theft under section 379 (theft) 356 IPC, which carry a maximum punishment of three-year imprisonment, even when in most of these cases of snatching, the victim is hurt to an extent of losing their ability to speak or even their lives while resisting the snatchers.
“…Delhi Police books the snatchers under trivial sections under Section 379 and 356 of the Indian Penal Code, instead of Section 392 and 397 (Robbery) of the Indian Penal Code even when the victims are grievously injured where the maximum punishment in 379 is merely 3 years and the provisions of bail considerably relaxed, thus emboldening the offenders further,” he said.
“Reports further denote that many incidents of snatching entail serious wounds and also involve use of deadly weapons ensuing fatal injuries or even deaths of the victim however, the offenders are booked under trivial sections,” Prashant added in his PIL.
While urging for amendment in laws to curb the menace of snatching, he cited how in October, 2015, Haryana brought in Section 379B to IPC for offence of snatching and use of force which carried rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than 10 years, which may extend to 14 years along with a fine of Rs 25,000.
The PIL also relied on reports about Maharashtra invoking the MCOCA in incidents of snatching, which Prashant said is an organised crime and not a stray incident.
“The offence of snatching ensues many other grave offences whereupon the victims of snatching have sustained serious injuries and even deaths,” he said.
The PIL cites incident of July 26, 2016, where a 28-year-old teacher died after attempting to recover her articles from the snatcher in outer Delhi while in December last year, a woman lost her ability to speak in an attack by snatchers.
Two women lost their lives in separate incidents in September this year while resisting attempts of snatching.
The bench also called for responses from the municipal corporations for providing proper lightings and adequate safety facilities in dark and gloomy public areas, including adequate vigil in and around parks, and installation of requisite CCTV cameras in such places.