After Gujarat and Haryana, Rajasthan has now sought Central government's permission to make changes in law against chain snatching offence by increasing punishment to up to 14 years. The Rajasthan government wants to make amendment in section 379 of the Indian Penal Code, which defines punishment for theft.
"The state government is planning to introduce a criminal law amendment bill in next Assembly session to make the changes," said an official aware of the matter.
The process to bring a new law against chain snatching and other objects began in July 2016 when the crime branch of Rajasthan Police sent a proposal to the home ministry. Now, Ashok Gehlot led Congress government has renewed the proposal, the official said.
The proposal called for defining snatching as a non-bailable crime in which trial should be conducted in the sessions court instead of judicial magistrate that hears cases under section 379, according to a copy of the proposal accessed by Hindustan Times.
Cases of chain snatching are currently registered under section 379 of the IPC for theft and it carries a maximum punishment of three years, or a fine, or both.
The proposed 379A clause in the IPC says that a convict will be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term that is not less than five years but which may extend to 10 years, along with a fine of Rs 25,000.
The second clause, 379B, being proposed is for snatching offences in which there is use of force. Under this provision, the government has proposed that the convict will be punished with rigorous imprisonment not less than 10 years, which may extend to 14 years, with a fine of Rs 25,000.
In January this year, Gujarat became the second state to announce 10 years of imprisonment for snatching.
The President gave assent to the Criminal Law (Gujarat Amendment) Bill 2018 in January. However, the Gujarat law makes snatching punishable by seven years of imprisonment, and if there's use of force resulting in injury, the punishment is imprisonment of up to 10 years.
According to the proposal copy, the Rajasthan's proposal is based on the Haryana law.
Currently, chain snatchers are charged with section 379 of IPC, which invites a punishment of up to three years in jail or with fine, or with both.
"The proposal was sent in 2016; we sent a reminder to the government this month," said BL Soni, additional director general of police, crime branch.
He said last three years have seen a monumental rise in crime related to snatching. "Snatching is an urban phenomenon because of the anonymity factor. In rural areas, it is easy to identify the attackers," he said.
According to data from the crime branch, in 2019, 122,000 cases of theft were registered in Rajasthan until September 30. In the previous year, the number of such cases were 95,000 in the corresponding period.
The Rajasthan police is also holding awareness camps in schools and colleges for girls to be careful when they are on the street.
"Amendment in the IPC section for theft is a welcome step as it will help the police in effective action against such crimes because snatching is as heinous as loot but the convicts get away with a lesser sentence," said Mahendra Choudhary, former IPS officer.