The Delhi High Court today asked the AAP government to consider amending the penal provisions to deal with the "serious problem" of chain snatching in the national capital. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar sought a status report from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on how it intended to deal with the issue, which was raised in a PIL filed by a lawyer. While even the rape laws needed "drastic amendments", the government should look into making the punishment for snatching more stringent, the court said. The court also issued notice to the Delhi government, police and the municipal corporations and sought their reply to the plea, which has also contended that various parks in the city were the "hubs" of such crimes and the criminal elements frequented such places due to lack of vigilance. The bench listed the matter for further hearing on December 14. The petition was moved by advocate Prashant Manchanda who has alleged that chain snatchings in the city have seen a six- fold rise leading to a "fear psychosis" in the minds of citizens as well as tourists who are also targeted by the perpetrators. He claimed that on an average, there were 25 snatching cases every day in the national capital due to the "absence of effective laws" and "indifference" of the police, which books the offenders under the "trivial provisions" of theft instead of robbery or dacoity, even though weapons are used to commit such crimes. "Many incidents of snatching entail serious wounds and also involve use of deadly weapons, leading to fatal injuries or death of the victims," the petition has said. Manchanda told the court that the state of Haryana, recognising the seriousness of the problem, has made inclusions in the penal law IPC to make it harsher against snatchings. Under the newly added sections 379A and 379B in the IPC, the offence of snatching entails a punishment ranging from five to 14 years with fine, as against the maximum of three years under section 379, the petition has said. The petitioner also told the bench that in Maharashtra too, the punishment for snatching has been made stringent and in some cases, the Mumbai police has also invoked Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA). In response to the submission, the court said such offences could be part of organised crime, but the lawyer for Delhi police, Gautam Narayan, disagreed. Narayan said an amendment was under consideration and added that such matters should be left to the police. The court, however, asked the authorities to file their status reports within three weeks.
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