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Bid to blunt graffiti law

Calcutta, Nov. 23: Three bills on regulating graffiti in Calcutta, Howrah and elsewhere in Bengal were passed in the Assembly today but the government said it could consider proposals to water down the penal provisions.

According to the new legislation, offences can attract a six-month prison term and a fine of Rs 50,000.

Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya offered political parties a ray of hope after the passage of the bills that took a middle path between the rights of the people and political parties.

“Members of all parties resented the provision of a six-month jail term and the Rs 50,000 fine. So the government will consider proposals to reduce the punishments,’’ Bhattacharya said.

The new legislation will not be enforced till the government repeals the mother act of 1976, the minister said. “This will not be possible in this session. Maybe an ordinance will be promulgated.’’

As Opposition MLAs termed the penal provisions “draconian” and “fascist”, Bhattacharya tried to assuage them, saying: “We won’t dishonour top leaders if they deny knowledge of the offence.... We will add an explanation to the law making it clear that only local leaders would be held responsible.”

What he did not say is that local leaders, too, can escape by denying knowledge of the offence and claiming to have made efforts to prevent it.

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