Misbehaviour with tourists now cognisable offence in Rajasthan

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Jaipur, Sept 14 (PTI): Misbehaviour with tourists will now be a cognisable offence in Rajasthan and a non-bailable one if repeated.

An amendment bill was passed in the state assembly on Monday night to insert a new section 27-A in the Rajasthan Tourism Trade (Facilitation and Regulation) Act, 2010.

The house passed the Rajasthan Tourism Trade (Facilitation and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2021 with a voice vote.

Tourism is one of the key industries in Rajasthan which is visited by lakhs of domestic and foreign tourists every year.

However, the visitors often face problems due to touts, illegal vendors and undesirable elements.

According to the section 27-A, “All the offences punishable under the Act shall be cognisable and bailable: provided that the offences punishable under subsection (3) and sub-section (4) of section 13 of the Act shall be cognisable and non-bailable.”

Section 13 (3) says whoever commits subsequent offence of touting shall be arrested without warrant by police and, on conviction, be punished with rigorous imprisonment of up to three years or fine of up to Rs 30,000 or both.

While 13 (4) says whoever, habitually engages in the practice of touting even after having been punished more than once, shall be arrested without warrant by police and punished on conviction with rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years or a fine up to Rs 1 lakh or both.

Participating in a debate on the bill, minister of state for Tourism Govind Singh Dotasra said the legislation was brought in 2010 to boost tourism and prevent misbehaviour with tourists.

However, as it was not mentioned whether the offence was bailable or non-bailable, it had to be amended, he said.

Dotasra said police stations in Jaipur and Udaipur were set up by the state government to check touting and cases were filed in 2016 and challans submitted.

But the accused went to the High Court which in January 2017 quashed an FIR on the grounds that the offences were not specifically provided in the Act as cognisable.  The minister said an FIR cannot be registered unless the offence is cognisable and when that does not happen, a record cannot be maintained.

“This was a legal and technical problem, therefore, the amendments have been made,” he said.

Welcoming the development, Sanjay Kaushik, secretary of Rajasthan Association of Tour Operators, said strict action against touts, called ‘lapkas’ in local parlance, is necessary to make the tourists feel safe.

“Touting activities not only disturb tourists but also tarnish the image of the whole industry. The problem of lapkas is mainly in big cities like Jaipur and Udaipur,” Kaushik told PTI.

The lapkas pose as guides, mislead and force tourists to shop in order to get a commission and extort money from them. They also harass the tourists, Kaushik claimed.

Sunita Sharma, a national-level tourist guide and executive member of Tourist Federation of India, said touts are not regulated by the government and hence catching them is difficult.

“Such elements mislead tourists; extort money from them and it creates a very bad impression. Since they are not regulated by the government, catching them becomes difficult if they commit fraud. Hence, strict action against them is necessary,” she said.

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