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Report No. 42

Chapter 14

Offences Affecting Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals

14.1. Introductor.-General recommendation for increase in punishment.-

A 'public nuisance' is defined in section 268 of the Code as "an act or omission which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance'to the public or to people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity". Speaking generally, such acts arise out of careless or callous disregard of other people's welfare or convenience. The sections that follow mention specific instances of such conduct which are expressly made punishable, such as, the negligent spreading of an infectious disease, adulteration of food or drink or drugs, the fouling of a public spring or reservoir, endangering human life by rash driving or careless navigation, or negligent keeping of explosives or dangerous animals.

In modern times, such careless conduct is likely to cause a lot of harm to a lot of people, and should be regarded as truly anti-social; and viewed in that light, the punishment provided by the Code for 'such anti-social conduct is, we think, inadequate. Mostly, the maximum punishment is imprisonment for six months, and in some cases, it is less: only in two cases does it exceed six months' imprisonment. We find, that the special Acts dealing with such offences do provide deterrent punishment, and it is proper that our Penal Code should treat these offences in a similar manner. We propose, therefore, to raise the maximum punishment considerably for most of the offences.

14.2. Sections 268 and 29.-combined and revised.-

Section 268 defines 'public nuisance' in a very general and comprehensive manner. In fact, the • definition is so wide that it could be said that many of the offences described in detail in the subsequent sections are merely particular instances of public nuisance. Accordingly, the penal provision in section 290 prescribes the punishment for public nuisance "in any case not otherwise punishable by the Code". Instead of defining the offence at the beginning of the Chapter and prescribing the punishment practically at the end of it, we suggest that it would be clearer to bring them together in one section at the beginning. The punishment of fine provided in section 290 which is now limited to Rs. 200, may, we suggest, be unlimited. The revised section may be as follows.-

"268. Public nuisance.- (1) Whoever does any act or is guilty of an illegal omission whic.-

(a) causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public or to the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, or

(b) must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right, commits a public nuisance.

Explanation.- Any such act or illegal omission is not excusable on the ground that it causes some convenience or advantage.

(2) Whoever commits a public nuisance in any case not otherwise punishable by this Code, shall be punished with fine."

14.3. Sections 269 and 27.-combined and revised.-

Sections 269 and 270 deal with the spreading of infectious diseases dangerous to lif.-section 269, when it is done "unlawfully or negligently" and section 270, when it is done "malignantly".

With regard to the first type of mens rea, there has been some doubt about the meaning of "unlawfully". The underlying idea is that when the person acts without lawful excuse. As regards the second section, there seems no point in using a word like "malignantly" which has a condemnatory overtone. The distinction should, as usual, be between negligent acts and intentional acts, the latter being punishable more severely than the former. The punishments provided in both sections require to be enhanced. We propose to combine the two sections in one, reading as follows.-

"269. Act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life.- ZWhoever does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, shall be punishe.-

(a) if he does such act negligently, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both;

(b) if he does such act intentionally, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both."

14.4. Section 271.- No changes are required in section 271.

14.5. Sections 272 to 27.-punishment increased.-

The next five sections deal with the anti-social and reprehensible offences of adulterating food or drink and drugs. While the definition of all the offences is comprehensive and clear and does not require any modification, we propose that the punishment provided in each of these sections should be increased to "three years, or with fine, or with both"

14.6. Section 27.-amended.-

Section 277 punishes the "corrupting or fouling" of a public spring or reservoir, but does not expressly speak of a public well. It would be useful if a well is specifically mentioned. On the other hand, the archaic word "corrupting" is redundant and may be deleted. The punishment should be increased to imprisonment upto six months, or unlimited fine, otboth. The section may be revised as follows.-

"277. Fouling water of public spring, well or reservoir.- Whoever voluntarily fouls the water of any public spring, well or reservoir, so as to render it less fit for the purposes for which it is ordinarily used, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both".

14.7. Section 27.-amended.-

Section 2-78 punishes those who vitiate the atmosphere, but the punishment is only "fine which may extend to five hundred rupees". This is inadequate, and we recommend that these words may be replaced by "imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both".

14.8. Section 27.-amended.-

Section 279 deals with the offence of rash driving of a vehicle on a public way. We propose to make the fine under this section unlimited by omitting the words "which may extend to one thousand rupees".

14.9. New section 279.-Dangerously over loaded vehicles.-

There is, however, no provision corresponding to section 282 under which carrying passengers in a boat which is unsafe either because of its condition or because of its load is an offence. A similar provision should, in our opinion, be made for taking on the road an unsafe vehicle, and we suggest the addition of a new section 279A as follows.-

"279A. Driving unsafe or overloaded vehicle on a public way.- Whoever knowingly or negligently drives any vehicle on a public way when that vehicle is in such a state or so loaded as to endanger life, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both."

14.10. Sections 280 to 28.-amended.-

Sections 280 to 283 are designed to ensure public safety on waterways. While the punishment under section 281 is justifiably severe, that under the other three sections is mild and should be increased by making the fine unlimited. In sections 280 and 282, the words "which may extend to one thousand rupees" should be omitted; and in section 283, the words "which may extend to two hundred rupees" should be omitted.

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