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Explained: Rajasthan’s amended law that makes misbehaviour with tourists a cognisable offence

Touts, known locally as lapka, are a persisting trouble at popular tourist sites in the state. They often mislead and force tourists to shop to make money and get a commission. And tourism is a key industry in Rajasthan.

Written by Hamza Khan , Edited by Explained Desk | Jaipur |
Updated: September 16, 2021 3:04:48 pm
Rajasthan, Rajasthan tourism, Rajasthan tourism bill, Rajasthan law misbehaviour with tourists, Indian ExpressTourism is a key industry in Rajasthan. (Express Photo: Rohit Jain Paras, File)

The Rajasthan Assembly on Monday (September 13) passed a Bill to amend the Rajasthan Tourism Trade (Facilitation and Regulation) Act, 2010. Notably, it makes misbehaviour with tourists, especially by touts, a cognisable offence in Rajasthan with repeated offence being non-bailable.

What is the new bill about?

The Rajasthan Tourism Trade (Facilitation and Regulation) (Amendment) Bill, 2021, inserts a new section 27-A in the 2010 Act. The section is defined as “Offences to be cognizable: All the offences punishable under this Act shall be cognizable and bailable,” subject to the certain conditions, wherein the repeat offence will be non-bailable.

Sub sections 3 and 4 under section 13 of the 2010 Act have been made cognisable and non-bailable. Section 13 deals with “prohibition of certain acts and activities in the tourist places, areas and destinations,” which prohibits touting, begging and hawking articles for sale in or around any tourist places. The sub sections 3 and 4 deal with habitual offenders.

What prompted the bill?

Touts, known locally as lapka, are a persisting trouble at popular tourist sites in the state. They often mislead and force tourists to shop – usually at exorbitant prices in connivance with the establishments – to make money and get a commission. And tourism is a key industry in Rajasthan – it witnessed 5.2 crore domestic and 16 lakh foreign tourists in 2019.

So, the Bill mainly seeks to prevent touts around the tourist sites, with Minister of state for Tourism Govind Singh Dotasra saying that the “earlier law wasn’t for troubling beggars, and nor is it now,” referring to the 2010 law and the current amendment.

Since 2018, the police and the Tourism Department have taken action against close to a thousand touts. However, they are let off easily after paying a fine and subsequently return to touting and troubling the tourists.

What is the High Court order that led to the bill?

Following the 2010 Act, the state had started tourist police stations in Jaipur and Udaipur. In one of the cases, an FIR was lodged in 2016 and a challan was filed. However, the accused Mohammad Hanif Qureshi and Kailash Saini went to court and in January 2017, the Rajasthan High Court quashed the FIR on the ground that offences punishable under sub-sections (1) and (2) of section 13 of the 2010 Act are not specifically provided in the Act as cognisable.

Essentially, the 2010 Act was toothless in cracking down on the touts.

Replying to the debate on the bill in the Assembly, Dotasra said that the 2010 Act was brought in to prevent misbehaviour with the tourists and ensure that they go back with good experiences. “However, the Act did not specify whether the provision for punishment was cognisable or not, or whether it was bailable,” Dotasra said.

“Following the HC order, the police could not file an FIR, nor could the court take any strict action. However, the police and the Tourism Department took action against 208 touts in 2018, 462 in 2019, 194 in 2020 and 102 in 2021. But since the crime isn’t cognisable, a complaint is filed in court and the accused is let off after paying a fine. Hence, the record was not maintained and the repeat offence of the crime could not be proved. But it wouldn’t be so anymore,” Dotasra said.

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