Background Facts

  1. With the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in rural areas of Haryana, the Khattar government has invoked the provisions of British Raj-era law, The Punjab Small Town Patrol Act, 1918 that empowers people in villages to guard themselves through Thikri Pehra.
  2. The villagers have been told to control the gathering of people and to enforce compliance of Covid-19 protocol in their villages.
  3. An examination of the law invoked by the Haryana government, however, revealed that while some of its provisions may be relevant to the current pandemic, it still carries the relics of the colonial era as far as deterrence is concerned.
  4. The century-old law provides the provision of imposing a fine of Rs 5 only on a villager if he/she defies the orders passed by the deputy commissioner (DC) under the law.
  5. In case defiance of the DC’s directions is by an entire village, the village may be fined up to Rs 100. Interestingly, the Raj-era law still has the provision of issuing 15-day advance notice to villagers through the beating of the drum before imposing the fine on them.
  6. As per the orders passed under Section-3 of the Punjab Villages and Small-Town Patrol Act, 1918 by DCs of various districts, all the village panchayats in the state have been directed to perform patrol duty throughout the day and night and to ensure there is no gathering of people.
  7. It has been ordered that all able-bodied male inhabitants of villages in districts shall be liable to perform patrol duty in all the villages of districts during day and night.
  8. The 103-year-old law is based on the concept of people guarding themselves in case of some emergency situation through community policing and empowers the villagers on guard duty during ‘Thikri Pehra’ at par with a public servant in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The officials of the panchayat department have been directed to ensure compliance with the directions issued under this colonial-era law.
  9. The law provides that the village panchayat would select the persons for the patrol duty. During the imposition of the law, the decision of the majority of the members of a village panchayat at the time assembled shall be deemed to be the decision of the panchayat.
Thikri Pehra under Punjab Small Town Patrol Act, 1918
Thikri Pehra under Punjab Small Town Patrol Act, 1918

Also Read- Thikri Pehra: Haryana invokes Raj-era law for vigil in villages

Fine of Rs 100 if village does not implement law

If in the opinion of the DC any village fails to enforce patrol duties, the DC may by written order impose a fine which may extend to Rs100 on the village.

The law clarifies that even before the imposition of any fine under this section, the DC has to give 10-days’ notice by beating of a drum or otherwise to the village and shall consider any objections that may be received by him.

 The DC, after such inquiry as he may deem necessary, shall apportion the fine among the inhabitants according to his judgment.

Also Read- ‘Thikri pehras’ in rural areas – Tribune India

Community policing in earlier times

‘Thikri Pehra’ was used by villagers to guard or secure their settings/villages from robberies, thefts, or similar situations in earlier times.

These arrangements were made because of the limited availability of police machinery in rural areas, according to a research paper published in India Police Journal (IPJ) of Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD), authored by Sandeep Kaur of the department of public administration, Sri Guru Gobind Singh College, Chandigarh.

The practice of ‘Thikri Pehra’ became law after nod from then British Governor General of India on June 21,1918

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