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Some hilariously outdated laws in India

15 Mar 15
Written by
Published in Nation

India, a civilization more than 4000 years old,

a society with mix of 22 scheduled languages spoken & 212 different tribes. India has been pronounced as the oldest living civilization in the world. In the last millenia however, it saw the rule of foreign invaders for more than 800 years. The most recent of these were the British until 15th August 1947.

The Constitution of India was drafted successfully on 26th January, 1950. Dr BR Ambedkar was the chairperson of the drafting committee, most of the clauses were common to   Government of India Act, 1935, and most of the new acts were born out of the older ones.

Since 1950, many of the laws has been repealed, or changed through constitutional amendments or parliamentary bills but even after 65years of India’s constitution we are yet to get rid of many such outdated laws. The NDA government under Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee constituted PC Jain commission in 1998 to examine 1382 such laws, after which under MR. Arun Jaitley (Current Finance Minister) as the Union minister of law in the year 2000-2002, the government repealed 200 obsolete laws.

After the Narendra Modi goverment took oath on 16th May, 2014, the then Union Law Minister Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad ensured on August 15 at a gathering of the Supreme Court Bar Association that at least 300 old laws shall be repealed; he further gave assurance to introduce the Repealing and Amending Bill, 2014.

Here’s a glimpse of few law that can shock as well make you laugh.

1) Indian Aircraft Act, 1934
This act was made to control the possession, manufacture, and use, sale (import & export) of aircraft. Includes balloons, airships, kites etc

Fact:  The law holds every citizen of India as an offender who tries to fly kites or balloons without having license for the same. Imagine lakhs and crores of citizen fly kites on auspicious Indian festivals, independent day etc.

2) Indian Post Office Act, 1898
This act states that Indian Post offices has the sole & supreme right to deliver letter from one destination to the other.

Fact: All the courier company uses the word “document” instead of “letter” to bypass the law.

3) The Bengal Bonded Warehouse Association Act, 1838
In order to get maximum property, the law states that the association can sell its property only to East India Company.

Fact: - The 177 year old law still exists stating the property can be soled to East India Company, when India will be celebrating its 68 years of independence this year.

4) Salt Cess Act, 1953
Weird laws that still exist were also made after independence. The law imposes a tax at the rate of only 14paisa for each 40kg on production of salt

Fact: - In financial year 2013-14 the total collections from the tax amounted to $538,000, making it a loss full tax to be collected as the industry which is controlled by Indian Salt Services employs around 800 officers

5) The Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950
The law states that if anybody possess copper wire of which diameter in millimeters is less than or more than 2.43 - 2.53, 2.77 - 2.87, 3.42 - 3.52, shall be prosecuted. The law was enacted to stop the stealing of copper wires which was at its peak and was hampering the functioning of telecommunications in several parts of the country.

Fact: - On July 15, 2013 the last telegram was sent in India, after which the services was permanently shutdown.

6) Arya Marriages Validating Act, 1937
The law was passed to validate the inter – marriages of a sect of Hindus pronounced as Arya Samajists.

Fact: - The law loses its existence after The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 was enacted, which compromises all the sects of Hindus including Arya Samajists.

7) The Bangalore Marriages Validating Act, 1934
A priest named Walter James McDonald Redwood, in Bangalore solemnized more than hundreds of local marriages during his tenure, believing that he was authorized person for the purpose. In order to validate those marriages this act was enacted.
Fact: - After 81 years the act has served its purpose.

8) The Sarais Act, 1867
The Act states that all lodges or hotels should provide free drinking waters and toilet facilities to the public.
Fact: - The laws today hold to no usefulness, rather than a tool of harassment for hotel owners, like a Mumbai Hotel was harassed few years ago by an overzealous litigant to allow all outsiders to use toilet, after which the hotel has to build a public toilet nearby.

9) The Exchange of Prisoners Act, 1948
The law was enacted to facilitate smooth transfer of prisoners’ form both India to Pakistan committed to custody on or before 1st August, 1948 to select there respective country.
Fact: - After so many years of independence the law is useless.

10) Reformatory Schools Act, Act 8 of 1897
The purpose of the law was to amend the laws relating to reformatory schools and make rules for dealing with youthful offenders (only boys) under the age of 15.

Fact: - The law is contradictory to Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of children) Act, 2000 which governs the juvenile under the age of 18 and provides for setting up of observation & special homes.

Whenever a law is enacted it is for the requirement of the time, but it does not give the guarantee for the future decades or centuries to protect the society with the same rule. Henceforth, the laws should be reviewed with time when they stop serving their ethos with changing time
In India there is a backlog of 31 million cases pending which is estimated to take 364 years with the strength of atleast 10.5 judges per 1 million people. India consists of 29 states and 7 union territories; according to Jain commission, in every state there might be 25,000-30,000 state laws which clog the system with overburdening useless laws and take the time to near infinity to solve cases.

"That makes it impossible to exorcise the dead wood from statute books," says jurist Soli Sorabjee. It depends on the executing effort of the present government to get rid of the messy laws and try to clear up the back log by one’s life time. Henceforth, I leave the wisdom to the government to decide whether the laws are hilarious or stupid.


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