The Delhi High Court has asked the Centre to show the action it has taken on letters written to it by the Delhi Government for making statutory amendments in the Indian Penal Code to incorporate ‘snatching’ as a specific offence with a stricter punishment to check the menace.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar sought the Centre’s response after the Delhi government informed the court that it had written letters to the Union Home Ministry for the statutory amendments.
“… no response has been filed on record by the government of India. Let a status report setting out action taken upon the letters written by the NCT of Delhi be positively filed within four weeks from today,” the bench ordered.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Prashant Manchanda seeking stringent penal provisions to tackle the growing menace of snatching in Delhi while stressing that snatching was not a crime in isolation, but sets off a series of heinous offences against women, including molestation, attempt to murder and even deaths of the victims.
Manchanda said the police book snatchers for theft under Section 379 (theft) / 356 IPC which carry a maximum punishment of three years with easy provisions for bail instead of booking offenders under Section 392 and 397 (Robbery) of IPC even when the victims are grievously injured in many cases thus emboldening the offenders further.
Manchanda also cited the example of Haryana which in October, 2015 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.
It was on the issue of statutory amendment to incorporate specific offence of snatching in consonance with the law in Haryana and Punjab that the Delhi government informed the court that it has written letters to the Ministry of Home Affairs which is required to take action in this regard.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police, in an affidavit, told the court that, “…as against the apprehension shown by the petitioner that Delhi police is indifferent to the incidents of offence of snatching, the respondent is duly sensitive to the issue”.
“…being a law enforcing agency, Delhi police has to work within the framework of prevalent laws and therefore, FIRs are lodged as per the facts of the case,” it said.
The affidavit said the police had invoked provisions of IPC pertaining to robbery etc., as in certain cases and it has now started the process of externment against the offenders besides taking action under MCOCA against habitual offenders.
It also said due to increased patrolling and deployment of pickets and sustained police action, the figure for the offence of snatching upto November 15, 2017, has come down from 9,571 to 7,669 for the corresponding period in previous year and 5186 persons were arrested in 2017.
Matter is now listed for August 1.
Manchanda’s PIL also called for proper manning of public spaces like parks where most of such crimes are committed and lighting of dark spots.
The PIL cited the 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 in which one fell off a train.