Calcutta, Nov. 20: The Bengal government has decided to change the draft graffiti bill to include penalties against unauthorised wall writing.
The Telegraph had reported earlier that a three-member ministerial committee set up by the government to prepare a draft to replace the anti-defacement act of 1976 had recommended abolition of the penal provisions, leaving the owner of the house whose walls are defiled with no recourse to justice.
Civic bodies were to be made solely accountable for cleaning up graffiti.
It seems now that this proposal has been dropped at the intervention of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee who spoke to municipal affairs minister Asok Bhattacharya after the public outrage that followed this paper’s report.
A municipal affairs department official said: “Unauthorised political graffiti will now become a cognisable offence, punishable with a fine of Rs 50,000 or imprisonment of up to six months or both. Local leaders of a political party who write the unauthorised graffiti will be penalised.”
He explained that under the new provisions, graffiti would be allowed only for a specified time. The period will be mentioned in the permission given in writing by the owner of the house.
“On the expiry of this period, the (graffiti) writers will have to erase it, failing which a complaint may be lodged with police. Those who find their walls dirtied against their wishes may also complain to the police since the offence will now be cognisable,” the official added.
The period for which graffiti will be allowed will be specified in the rules to be drafted later.
This evening, the municipal affairs minister met department officials to finalise the amendments in the draft bill before it is tabled in the ongoing winter session of the Assembly.
Calcutta mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya had objected to the original draft that made municipal bodies responsible for cleaning up dirtied walls. He found a supporter in his Howrah counterpart Gopal Mukherjee.
“We don’t have the infrastructure for this kind of clean-up. Who’ll pay the money for the clean-up'” Mukherjee asked.
The municipal affairs minister hasn’t taken kindly to the protest by the Calcutta mayor, which is not a surprise because their relations haven’t been too good.
“Why should the mayor comment' The bill is only at the draft stage. The law department may suggest even further modifications,” he said.
The move to repeal the anti-defacement act, passed during Siddhartha Shankar Ray’s Congress regime, was initiated by the chief minister after protests by political parties against the way the Election Commission strictly enforced the rules during the last Assembly polls.