How to make snatching a serious offence in Delhi: By Rakesh Kumar Singh
It is not unknown that incidents on snatching on road are on rise these days. Normally the police books the culprits of such incidents under Section-356/379 of the Indian Penal Code which attract a maximum punishment of three years. It really does not create any effect. No doubt in some cases the police also tries to invoke Section-392 IPC indicating the incident as robbery but the charge fails in the court on account of non-satisfaction of the necessary ingredients thereof. In such obtaining circumstances, we are bound to observe that the lawmakers should scrutinize, re-look and re-visit the sentencing policy in respect of incident of snatching. The incident of snatching needs to be made punishable with harsher punishment separately from the concept of theft.
The present paper proposes as to how some part of the problem of enhancement of punishment can be tackled in Delhi. The situation relates to the aggravated form of theft on the roads of Delhi. One of the ways to achieve the goal is to amend the IPC and CrPC. Since, presently we are talking about Delhi, we may consider as to how this can be done specifically for Delhi. Ministry of Home Affairs (India) controls Delhi in all respect. It has the powers to extend to Delhi any law which is in force in any state. For this, it need not to go before parliament to seek approval and it can do this through a gazette notification under its power available in Section-2 of the Union Territories Laws Act, 1950. Several laws of different states have been brought into force in Delhi by the Home Ministry and its website shows such laws.
It can therefore be concluded that Home Ministry can bring a law of any state in Delhi through a gazette notification. One such law which needs to be brought in Delhi is the Indian Penal Code (Haryana Amendment) Act, 2015 as notifed on 03.09.2015. Through this Act, the state of Haryana inserted Section-379A and 379B in the IPC, 1860. These sections read as under:
“379A. Snatching.- (1) Whoever, with the intention to commit theft, suddenly or quickly or forcibly seizes or secures grabs or takes away from any person or from his possession any moveable property, and makes or attempts to make escape with such property, is said to commit snatching. (2) Whoever, commits snatching, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than five years but which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine of rupees twenty-five thousand”.
“379B. Snatching with hurt, wrongful restraint or fear of hurt.-Whoever, in order to commit snatching, or in committing the snatching, causes hurt or wrongful, restraint or fear of hurt; or after committing the offence of snatching, causes hurt or wrongful restraint or fear of hurt in order to effect his escape, shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to fourteen years, and shall also be liable to fine of rupees twenty-five thousand”.
The aforesaid clearly indicates that snatching needs to be taken on a more serious level. Newspapers are full of news items where snatching incidents have caused severe problem with the victims. Punjab had tackled the situation even in the year 2010 by making similar amendments. Haryana has done this in the year 2015. Chandigarh has already written the Home Ministry of India to adopt the same law. There is no reason as to why Delhi cannot adopt the same law through the Home Ministry of India being an Union Territory.
At this stage, it would also be significant to mention that Haryana also made an amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure through the Code of Criminal Procedure (Haryana Amendment) Act, 2015 and indicated that offences under Section-379A & 379B shall be triable by the court of sessions. This also shows seriousness of thinking.
If the aforesaid laws of state are extended to Delhi by the Home Ministry under the power aforesaid, the problem will be solved at least in Delhi. It is not as if this activity has not been done ever in Delhi. There are several legislation in Delhi which has come in the statute book through the aforesaid route.
Central laws which have undergone amendments through extension of state laws in Delhi:
We may now see whether it is possible for the government to amend IPC and CrPC in Delhi by extending an amending law existing in a State. There are two categories of central laws applicable to Delhi. First, the laws enacted directly by the Central Legislature which can be treated as direct central law and the Second, state laws extended to Delhi by Home Ministry which can be treated as deemed central law (for clarity, be it noted that there are several judicial pronouncements saying that once a state law is extended to Delhi, it becomes a central law in Delhi.
See a nine judges bench decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court in NDMC vs State of Punjab 1997(7) SCC 339, a constitution bench decision in Mithan Lal vs the State Of Delhi, AIR 1958 SC 682, a three judges bench decision in Delhi Bar Association vs Union Of India (2008) 13 SCC 628). Both type of central laws have seen amendment through extension of state amendments. We may enlist some of them as under:
|Sl. No.||Direct Central Laws||Amending Act applicable to Delhi|
|1.||The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908||Punjab|
|2.||Indian Stamp Act, 1889||Punjab and UP|
|3.||The Court Fee Act, 1870||East Punjab|
|4.||Registration Act, 1908||Punjab|
|5.||The Societies Registration Act, 1860||Punjab|
|Sl. No.||Deemed Central Laws||Amending Act Applicable to:|
|1.||Punjab Excise Act, 1914||Punjab|
|2.||Punjab Security of State Act, 1953||Punjab|
|3.||Punjab Courts Act, 1918||Punjab|
|4.||Punjab Registration of Money Lenders Act, 1938||Haryana|
|5.||East Punjab Ayurvedic and Yunani Practitioners Act, 1949||Punjab|
|6.||UP Entertainment and Betting Tax Act, 1937||UP|
It is therefore not as if there cannot be any amendment of existing law in Delhi by extending some State Act by which any Central Law was amended in that State. What is primarily barred is the amendment of any law by executive authority as the same can not be done. Meaning thereby that Central Government cannot amend any law in Delhi without going through the legislative procedure but there is nothing in law to prohibit the Central Government to exercise its power under Section-2 of Union Territories Laws Act, 1950 and extend an existing law of the State to Delhi which may have the effect of amending the law existing in Delhi. Amending Act of the State is also a law for the purpose of Section-2 of Union Territories Laws Act, 1950 and therefore can be extended to Delhi. The aforesaid enlisted laws support this proposition. Hon’ble High Court of Delhi had once considered this question in Marchi vs Mathu Ram AIR 1969 Delhi 267 wherein extension of Punjab Pre-emption (Amendment) Act, 1960 to Himachal Pradesh (then a union territory) was in issue where Punjab Pre-emption Act, 1913 was already in force. Argument that the central government did not have such powers was rejected in the said case with the observation “But a notification, which itself does not repeal or amend any, pre-existing law cannot be invalid merely because it extends to the Union Territory an enactment which has the effect of amending or repealing a pre-existing law in the Union Territory”. This also supports that a state law which amends an existing law can also be extended to the union territory of Delhi by the central government.
If the proposition aforesaid is unacceptable by the government, the natural result would be that all the aforesaid amending laws applicable in Delhi (including several other such laws not enlisted herein) will have to be treated as void for want of authority. However, since all such laws are in existence for several years, it can hardly be said that amending laws cannot be extended to Delhi.
The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 both are on equal footing and are related to the procedural law. If the former is validly amended by extending a state law to Delhi, there is no reason as to why the later cannot be validly amended in the same manner. It is entirely another matter as to whether there exists any valid reason for extending any State Law in Delhi or not. It would not be out of place to mention that amendment made in Civil Procedure Code though Punjab Act of 1934 which was extended to Delhi has been considered by a Division bench of Hon’ble Delhi High Court in S.C. Jain vs Union of India ILR (1983) 2 Del 579 and has been treated as valid.
Part extension of any State Law to Delhi:
Though one may argue that such power of part extention is not available under Union Territories Laws Act, 1950. Such arguments, however, have no basis at all. The best example is the Punjab Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1952 which was extended to Delhi in 1980 and only some of the provisions were extended and others were omitted by the Home Ministry while extending the law to Delhi. A challenge was laid before division bench of Hon’ble Delhi High Court in National Assn. of Motion Pictures Exhibitors, Delhi vs Union of India ILR (1983) 1 Del 691 but met with the destined failure.
Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Code of Criminal procedure, 1973 are referable to concurrent list of the seventh schedule appended to the Constitution of India. So, every state amendment has to be assented to by the President to avoid the repugnancy. Apparently, Home Ministry goes through the necessity of such amendment and recommends the acceptance thereof by the President. And then the President gives assent to the state amendment whereafter, the amendment can become the law and after usual formalities, can affect amendments in the Code of Criminal Procedure and IPC.
In Haryana, IPC, 1860 & the Code of Criminal Procedure have been amended vide the Indian Penal Code (Haryana Amendment) Act, 2015 and the Code of Criminal Procedure (Haryana Amendment) Act, 2015. These Acts were assented by the President. Naturally, the Home Ministry accepted that there was a need to accept such amendments in IPC and the Code of Criminal Procedure in Haryana. An inference can also be drawn that the Home Ministry has already applied its mind towards such necessity of amending the law. The question then is whether the Haryana and Delhi are differently positioned so far as snatching incidents are concerned? There is hardly any difference between Haryana and Delhi in this respect.
Reasoning of State governments adopted by the Central government on several occasions:
It is not as if the central government does not adopt the reasoning of state governments. Rather, the situation is almost converse. Code of Criminal Procedure has seen several central amendments which copied some years after such amendments were already introduced by one or the other state government.
Such situations may be enlisted herein after: i. Concept of Identification of accused was statutorily recognized initially by UP government in 1984. This was later on adopted by Central government for the entire country through 2005 Amendment (see Section-54A). ii. Production of accused through electronic video linkage was conceptualized by different state governments and later on adopted by Central government for the entire country through 2008 Amendment (see Section-167.2.b). iii. Concept of reducing the burden on Chief Judicial Magistrate in cases of remand by Sessions Court under Section-228 was initially contemplated by West Bengal in 1979 and Karnataka in 1994. This was later on adopted by Central government for the entire country through 2005 Amendment (see Section-228.1.a). iv. Inclusion of competence to commit a matter in Section-299 was introduced initially by UP government in 1976 and later on was adopted by Central government for the entire country through 1978 Amendment (see Section-299.1). v. Inclusion of judge in Section-326 was introduced by UP government in 1976 and later on was adopted by Central government for the entire country through 1978 Amendment (see Section-326).
It is therefore clear that the Central government has on several occasions adopted the view of state governments in respect of amendment to CrPC. As such, there would be hardly any scope for not considering the Haryana amendment for Delhi also.
Time Limit for consideration by Home Ministry:
If a state government proposes to amend any central law of concurrent list, it sends the same to the Home Ministry of India for assent of President. The Home Ministry has formulated a procedure for dealing with such cases and has also fixed a time frame of three months (vide File No.-23/18/2015- Judl & PP (Part-III) dated 04.02.2016). For the present situation, Home Ministry has already applied its mind to the necessity of such amendment in IPC & the CrPC while dealing with the Haryana amendment. And presently, it would only to consider as to whether such amendment is desirable in Delhi or not and as to whether an Amending Law of a State can be extended in Delhi by virtue of Union Territories Laws Act, 1950 or not. It would be hard to comprehend any reason as to why within the same time frame i.e. three months, the Home Ministry cannot take a clear decision on the present aspect.