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Law Commission Recommends Repeal of 72 Obsolete Laws
Sep 20, 2014

The Law Commission has recommended repeal of 72 obsolete laws, saying laws must keep pace with changes in society and economy. Out of these 72 laws, 53 belong to the colonial era when statutes were enacted keeping in mind the interests of East India Company or the Crown and to curb independence movement. 15 of these laws were enacted during 1950s to 1980s when licence-permit raj was prevalent while the rest 4 laws are post-independence but before India adopted its Constitution on January 26, 1950.

The commission advises the government on legal issues said in its 248th report, “As the economy gets liberalised and modernised encompassing phenomenal changes brought in almost every walk of life the need for laws to keep pace with changes.” In its interim report Obsolete Laws: Warranting Immediate Repeal the commission headed by Justice A.P. Shah said not updating the laws can lead to legal gaps, inconsistencies and contradictions causing serious impediments to the processes of growth and of development.

The Commission, which has undertaken a study The Legal Enactments: Simplifications and Streamlining at the behest of the government, said the report was first in a series on obsolete laws. It has identified 261 statutes that require further study to decide whether to recommend their repeal.

Keen to repeal obsolete laws, the government has already introduced a bill in Parliament to repeal 32 such laws. It has also set up a committee headed by R. Ramanujam, a secretary in the PMO, to identify archaic administrative laws recommended to be repealed by P.C. Jain Committee in 1998.

These laws are outdated and no longer needed to govern a particular subject or the purpose of the law in question has been fulfilled or there are newer laws/regulations governing the same subject. Many of these laws run counter to the spirit of Indian Constitution. 

The Commission found that despite having been recommended for repeal previously in five of its reports, 253 laws still exist on the statute-books. It has already notified these laws to the ministries concerned for their comments as to why these laws still continue to exist. It also recommended the repeal of Appropriation Acts that are older than 10 years, saying “This itself would result in the repeal of more than 700 laws.”

Some of the archaic laws recommended to be repealed: 

  • The Ganges Tolls Act, 1867 mandates toll tax for boats ferrying passengers across river Ganges cannot be more than two ‘annas’—a denomination no more in use. 

  • Delhi Hotels (Control of Accommodation) Act, 1949 empowers government to force hotels in Delhi to provide rooms to it on demand, and to reserve at least 20 per cent of rooms for government guests. 

  • Foreign Recruiting Act, 1874 empowered government to issue orders to prevent recruitment of Indians by a foreign State.

  • Dramatic Performances Act, 1876 empowers state governments to prohibit performances that are scandalous, defamatory or likely to excite feelings of disaffection. It was extensively used to curb nationalist sentiments propagated through dramatic performances during freedom struggle.

  • Fort William Act, 1881 delegates power to officers of Indian Army to try and punish persons charged with littering, rash and negligent driving, and disorderly behaviour in public.

  • Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922 was used to curb nationalist movement by making it an offence to spread disaffection among the police.

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