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Report No. 156

Clause 179

12.77. Under this clause the existing sections 426 to 432 are sought to be substituted by new sections covering in general the offence of mischief. The existing section 425 in general defines mischief. Sections 426 to 440 are punishing sections applicable to different kinds of offences of mischief and higher punishments are prescribed in respect of aggravated offences of mischief like destroying public property or public services etc. The Law Commission in its 42nd Report considered these sections and recommended that in respect of certain offences the punishment should be increased from five to seven years.

With reference to section 437 it is also recommended that a reference to aircraft should be added. The Law Commission however recommended that sections 426 to 440 should be substituted. Section 426 prescribes punishment for mischief and the Law Commission recommended enhancement of sentence from three months to one year. Sections 427 to 436 as proposed by the Law Commission deal with the offence of causing mischief to the public property or machinery to the amount of Rs. 100 or more, mischief by killing or maiming animals, injury to public road, aircraft etc. and mischief by fire or explosive substances with intent to destroy place of worship.

So far as sections 438 to 440, the only changes are with regard to sentence and omission of section 439. In the Bill, the new sections 426 to 432 cover the offences of mischief more or less as proposed by the Law Commission in the above mentioned sections to be substituted as per its Report. We have examined the new sections 426 to 431. However, we recommend that the sentence of three years prescribed under each of these sections may be enhanced to five years.

Now coming to section 432 proposed in the Bill, we find that the type of mischief covered by this section is with reference to destroying, moving or rendering less useful any air route or a beacon or lights etc. used for guidance of the aircraft and such a mischief is made punishable and the sentence being seven years, but it is also mentioned there that if it does not amount to sabotage then it would be a different matter to be covered by section 437.

This Bill was prepared in 1978, perhaps having noticed the alarming increase in the types of offences of hijacking and rendering air service unsafe, the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982 and the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act, 1982 (SUACA) were passed. These two Acts were further amended in 1994. We have discussed the offence of hijacking in Chapter X with reference to the new section 362A proposed in the Bill and we suggested that in view of the provisions of the Anti-Hijacking Act as amended it may not be necessary to have this proposed provision.

In the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Civil Aviation Act as amended in 1994 a new section 3A was inserted which reads as follows:-

"3A.(1) Whoever, at any airport, unlawfully and intentionally, using any device, substance or weapon-

(a) commits an act of violence which is likely to cause grievous hurt or death of any person; or

(b) destroys or seriously damages any aircraft or facility at an airport or disrupts any service at the airport, endangering or threatening to endanger safety at that airport, shall be punished with imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.

(2) Whoever attempts to commit, or abets the commission of any offence under subsection (1) shall also be deemed to have committed such offence and shall be punished with the punishment provided for such offence."

A comparison of the contents of this section with the contents of section 432 would show that the acts of violence mentioned in the latter are in a general way covered by the words used in section 3A-1B of the SUACA. However, the disruption of the words used in section 432, namely, less useful route etc, and the damage to various other gadgets would be of a specific type of mischief. To make the section more comprehensive and effective we recommend that section 3A of the SUACA may further be amended incorporating some of the acts mentioned in the proposed section 432.

We may also add that we are making these suggestions, firstly because we have already recommended deletion of new section 362A to the extent applicable to the aircraft and also for the reason that so many technical issues would be involved in these kinds of offences and the special courts with the help of technicians acting as assessors would be in a better position to understand and decide the complicated questions that may arise. If amendment of section 3A is not to be carried out in the above manner then the new proposed section 432 may be retained in the clause. If so, then the sentence under section 432 may be brought in accordance with section 3A.

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