Narendra Modi should repeal these obsolete Laws

Narendra Modi should repeal these obsolete Laws

For all those born in independent India, “Her Majesty” is not a term to be concerned about. But be careful before you try and pocket even 10 rupees found on the ground anywhere in the country. It belongs to “Her Majesty”. According to Treasure Trove Act of 1878, any treasure found on the Indian soil, worth even as little as 1 penny (10 rupees) belongs to “Her Majesty.”

However, “Her Majesty” is not the one looting our country right now. It’s our own high and mighty in white collar, who manipulate the system using archaic and unnecessary laws. Recently, while addressing a rally in Mumbai, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that in our country there is a maze of laws which enables corrupt to find loopholes and escape. Those in power manipulate them in their favour.

In India, we have over an estimated 3000 central statutes which are obsolete, redundant or repetitive. There are over 300 colonial-era enactments in force in India which are redundant and not implemented. Some of these British-era laws are even derogatory to a particular group in India, and hence reminds of the days of slavery.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said, “Some of the laws on our books are laughable. Others have no place in a modern and democratic India.”

Since independence, the Law Commission of India made recommendations for the repeal of archaic laws in 1957, 1984, 1993 and 1998. The PC Jain Commission on the Review of Administrative Laws also recommended repeal of 1,300 such central enactments. However, the first and last serious concerted effort in cleaning up the statute book was in 2001 during BJP-led NDA Government. The then Government had acted upon recommendations of law Commission and the PC Jain Commission. Since then, there has been no systematic effort at weeding out dated and principally flawed laws.

Many unnecessary laws corrupt ordinary citizens who find it expensive and time-taking to go through lengthy legal process and hence prefer to give bribes. Red tape have been the talk of the town since Modi promised ‘red carpet and not red tape’ to businessmen in Japan. This red tapism has been the major cause of crony capitalism. The other repercussion is that people and firms prefer to stay away from engaging with the law and economic institutions respectively. Hence, denial of justice to many and deceleration of economic growth.

During 2014 Lok Sabha campaigning, Narendra Modi promised the electorate that his administration, should they be elected, would make a sincere attempt at statutory legal clean up. He made a commitment to the electorate that for every new law passed, the government would repeal 10 redundant ones, and that in his first 100 days in once he would undertake to repeal 100 old, burdensome laws. In keeping with that promise, the Modi Government had tabled The Repealing and Amending Bill (2014) in the Lok Sabha, recommending revisions of 36 obsolete laws.

According to the recent reports, the Law Ministry has further identified 1,094 laws which can be repealed, and the Ministry has plans to bring a fresh bill in the Parliament in the Winter session to repeal 287 obsolete statutes.

In the light of Government’s initiative to get rid of archaic laws, Centre for Civil Society prepared a report which lists 100 archaic laws which are neither controversial nor have any legal issues that would impede their repeal.

Centre for Civil Society (CCS) is a non-profit think tank based in New Delhi. It operates as an independent research and educational organisation. The Centre has been ranked amongst the top 55 think tanks in the world.

The NDA Government can out rightly get rid of these laws for few simple reasons: they are redundant or have outlived their purpose, many have been superseded by a modern law, few are derogatory to a particular group, Government’s policies has changed, doesn’t serve meaningful purpose now.

Out of these 100, twenty five are British-era laws. Others pertain to partition and post-independence reorganisation, unnecessary levies and taxes, redundant nationalisation, outmoded labour relations, restrictive business and economic regulations, ineffective governance and administration, obstructive civil and personal interference.

Following are a few interesting/funny laws from the list of 100 which can be repealed without any debate:

Have become redundant –

Bengal Suppression of Terrorist Outrages (Supplementary) Act, 1932 – The law was enacted to suppress the Indian freedom movement.

The Oudh Sub-Settlement Act, 1867 – The princely state of Oudh does not exist anymore.

Doesn’t serve meaningful purpose now –

The Sarais Act, 1867 – Under this Act, a “sarai” has to offer passers-by free drinks of water. A Delhi five-star hotel was harassed under the clause, though not prosecuted, for not doing so.

The Research and Development Cess Act, 1986 – The Act levies a 5 per cent cess on all technology imported from overseas. This cess hinders the flow of technology into the nation and poses a barrier to trade.

Have outlived their purpose –

The Foreign Recruiting Act, 1874 – This law was enacted with the interests of the British Raj in mind, to prevent colonial subjects from serving any rival European power.

The Resettlement of Displaced Persons (Land Acquisition) Act, 1948 – The Act was enacted to provide relief to persons displaced from their place of residence (in areas now comprising of Pakistan) on account of the Partition, and subsequently residing in India.

Punjab Disturbed Areas Act, 1983 – The Act was brought into force to curb militancy and public unrest in Punjab during the 1980s. It empowers any Magistrate or police officer not below the rank of a Sub-Inspector to fire upon, or prohibit the assembly of five or more persons, where he considers necessary and after giving due warning. The Act is not being implemented in practise. However, it should be repealed now since militancy in the State has been wiped out.

Derogatory to a particular group –

The Santhal Parganas Act, 1855 – This Act, introduced to serve the needs of the British colonial administration, exempted districts inhabited by the Santhal tribe from the operation of general laws and regulations. The purpose was to curb tribal uprisings by isolating tribal populations.

Have been superseded by a modern law –

Dramatic Performances Act, 1876 – This British era law violates Article 19(1) of the Constitution. grants the State Government the power to prohibit scandalous, defamatory performances or performances likely to excite feelings of disaffection against the State Government. This law was enacted to curb the nationalist movement, and is no longer relevant in light of our constitutional principles of freedom of speech and expression.

The Companies (Donation to National Funds) Act, 1951 – The Act’s purpose can be achieved through the Companies Act, 2013. The 1951 Act empowers any company to make donations to the Gandhi National Memorial Fund, the Sardar Vallabhabhai Memorial Fund or any other fund established for a charitable purpose and approved by the central government by reason of its national importance.

These laws impede the lives of citizens, entrepreneurs and the Government. This piece may not give you full insight into how and what are the exact laws which are used as a loophole by the corrupt and powerful to save themselves, but it establishes how there is a maze of laws which are not implemented in practice but exist, and hence can be or have been misused.

Read the story on Niti Central website.