Monday, 9 June 2014

Change the archaic laws

Good that heads of government departments have been asked to review archaic laws which are still in the books & need to be scrapped or updated. That took me back to good old days.

I recall Raj Kapoor's film 'Shree 420' which was a super hit of that time. Raj Kapoor played a lovable cheat. But at that time how & why the figure 420 appeared in the name of a film was not clear to me. Subsequently after a long time I got to know that 420 meant Section 420 of Indian Penal Code 1862.

Similarly in many old films the climax would be reached in a packed noisy court room. The old wise judge entered, took seat & looked upon the people in court. Silence descended. He pronounced the death punishment - 'tazeerat-e-Hind dafaa tin sau do ke tehet saza-e-maut' ( ताज़ीराते हिंद दफ़ा 302 के तहत सज़ाए मौत ) ।  This dafaa 302 or Section 302, I later learnt, relates to Indian Penal Code 1862.

Recently Aseem Trivedi was charged with sedition for having published a cartoon on corruption which ridiculed Indian constitution & emblem. This he did during anti-corruption protests in Mumbai. Now this sedition falls under the Indian Penal Code which was enacted in 1860. And in 1870 in the chapter " Of Offences against the State"  section 124-A on sedition was introduced.

How is it that a colonial ruler & a government of a free country have same thinking 140 years apart?

On the other hand we have laws on modern issues like surrogate mothers, live-in relations, third sex classification but same-sex marriages continue to be treated as criminal act under section 377 of Indian Penal Code 1862.

Come to think of it there are several sets of laws which take us back to British Raj & make me feel bad though the laws may have been good to hold all these 150 years.

Look at the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 which relates to outdated radio, fax, telex etc. But worst part is it authorises central government to tap phones! Latest amendment came in 2006 when Secretary rank officer could authorise snooping under certain circumstances.

Law relating to alcohol is also funny. One can have driving license & one can vote on reaching 18 but for drinking better consult state government. Some states say appropriate age is 21 others say 25 & some like Gujrat say nothing doing we will never let you have alcohol.

Another example is Negotiable Instruments Act 1881. This pertains to banking matters including banking holidays. Now bank holidays are declared state-wise by state governments & at times babus there are not fully aware of this act. Some times it happens that bank branches open at ten & hurriedly close at 11 as some babu had not declared the holiday under the Act in time.

We have Indian Trusts Act whose preamble reads that it " shall come in to force on first day of March 1882".

Then there is Indian Contracts Act which came in force on first day of September 1872.

Oh how I wish that all the laws relating to business, commerce, labour, social set-up etc are reviewed & updated & that all new updated versions come in to force say by 01 January 2020.

Follow the law of the land

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