Chandigarh: Punjab Congress today expressed strong opposition to the state government`s move to revive the "anti-protest legislation", saying it was "draconian" and anti-democratic and "reminded of British era slavery".
State Congress president Pratap Singh Bajwa said the `Punjab Prevention of Damage to Public and Private Property Bill-2014` barred people`s protests, and is aimed at "scuttling voices of dissent and freedom of expression".
"The bill provides for punishment including fine against violations. Moreover, offences under this legislation would be non-bailable," Bajwa said.
Lambasting the Badal government, he said, "It is reminiscent of the days of slavery during the British era and is an effort to scuttle voices of dissent and freedom of expression and protest which is fundamental to any democratic system."
He warned the state government against going ahead with this legislation in the upcoming budget session of the Punjab Assembly and said Congress would oppose it at every level.
The Congress leader also gave a call to "secular and democratic forces" to unite and stop this government from going ahead with "anti-people measures".
He also expressed apprehension that Punjab would be made a "testing laboratory" and the entire country might be brought under such "dreaded legislation to curb protests by the people."
Yesterday, the state cabinet headed by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had approved the inclusion of the words "Blockade of Rail or Road Traffic" in part 2 (C) of the Bill defining "damaging act".
According to an official release here yesterday, in the recent past there had been many incidents of violent demonstrations, agitations and damage to public and private property in the state.
The Bill provides for punishment up to one year and fine of Rs 1 lakh to those who damage public or private property through agitation, strike, bandh and blockade of rail or road traffic. If the damage was done using explosives, then the punishment would be up to two years and fine of Rs one lakh.
This amendment would also help recover costs from those who cause damage to public and private property, the release had said.
Bajwa said this bill was similar to a "legislation which was adopted in the Assembly on October 12, 2012. However, following strong opposition from the people it was not notified and withdrawn".