Prime Minister Narendra Modi has undertaken the task of doing away with archaic laws of our country, which hold little or no meaning for us in the current day and age. The Law Commission of India has recommended the repeal of 72 laws, some of which are draconian. We present a few more that we believe should be abrogated.
1. Section 497 of Indian Penal Code punishes the man for adultery but pardons the woman.
Why, we ask. If it is adultery, why pardon the woman. But that is not the point. Why punish at all?
2. The Police Act of 1861,which requires doffing of caps in the presence of royalty.
Watch carefully and you’ll notice that the police in 1960s-70s films used to take off their caps in the presence of Raja Sahib. BTW, where are the Raja Sahibs these days?
3. The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act, 1933.
The telecom provisions of the act have been rendered outdated by Telecom Policy of 1994 and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Ordinance, 1996. Plus, India sent its last telegram on July 14, 2013.
4. The Armed Forces’ Special Powers Act, 1958.
Heard of Irom Sharmila? Yes, she is the Iron Lady of Manipur fighting for the last 15 years to get this act abolished. Controversial as it is, there is no doubt that it overlooks basic human rights.
5. Section 377 of the IPC that criminalizes gays.
Let us not turn India into Saudi Arabia.
6. Sheriffs’ Fees Act, 1852, for someone who is powerless today.
This Act was enacted to remunerate Sheriffs of the presidency towns of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras, at a time when Sheriffs executed legal processes issued by courts. The position is now purely ceremonial.
7. Dramatic Performances Act, 1876, that has potential to end free speech.
This British enacted this law to curb nationalist sentiments. as theatre was used as a tool of protest against the oppressive nature of the colonial rule. It can be misused against freedom of expression.
8. Article 370, which gives special status to J&K.
It makes the consent of the J&K Government necessary for laws except those related to defence or national security. Why such a special status? Equality!
9. Research and Development Cess Act, 1986, which hampers trade.
10. Elephants’ Preservation Act, 1879, which imposes an unbelievable fine.
The Act imposes only an insignificant fine of Rs.500 for an offence as grave as killing, injuring or capturing wild elephants (except in cases of self-defence, or in accordance with a licence granted under the Act).
11. Section 14 of the Hindu Marriage Act, which does not grants a divorce before one year.
A couple cannot get a divorce within one year of the marriage. Why?
12. The entire Bengal Vagrancy Act, 1943, which practically lets police harass the homeless.
The police can still detain anyone it considers a vagrant. So, a poor, homeless beggar might be in trouble for “loitering with intent”.
13. The Sarais Act, 1867, which requires all sarais to offer free drinks to passers-by.
In fact, a hotel in Delhi was harassed a few years ago under this act.
14. India Treasure Trove Act, 1878, which still allows the Queen of England a share.
If you find a Rs.10 note “hidden in the soil”, you must inform the officials of the “nature and amount or approximate value of such treasure” and “share of such treasure … shall vest in Her Majesty”!
15. The Indian Post Office Act, 1898, which disallows private players from delivering letters.
Only the federal government has the “exclusive privilege of conveying by post, from one place to another”, most letters. Do you know the courier wallahs circumvent this law by sending “documents” rather than letters?
16. Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956, which is ill-defined.
“Harmful” has not been defined in clear words. Shopkeepers in Kerala were charged under the law for selling Bob Marley T-shirts on the grounds that these encouraged youngsters to consume drugs. Think now.
The Law Commission of India very aptly sums up the purpose of repealing of archaic laws in the following words:
In today’s times when national economies are increasingly becoming globally ‘interdependent’ and ‘interconnected’, ignoring to recognize…symbiotic linkages between law and economy can prove very costly to the nation.