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L A W : R E F O R M S
Antique laws don't fetch a thing
It is astonishing how lawmakers in India have bowed before sloth, and let archaic laws prevail

As India marches into the 21st century, the last vestige of the colonial past of India continues to haunt millions. The legacy of the colonial system has unfortunately continued to regulate the most sacrosanct democratic institutions of India.

The list of archaic laws is endless. The Indian Telegraph Act was promulgated in 1885 and the Indian Police Act was framed in 1861. The law envisaged that the government could regulate airwaves above Indian Territory. The Indian Contracts Act of 1872 outlaws ‘gaming contracts’, making futures markets illegal in India. Transaction of land in the country is regulated by many antediluvian central and state laws that are out of sync with modern requirements. The multifarious rent control acts in the states, the Coastal Regulatory Zone Act and the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, have proved to be an impediment, rather than facilitating transparent land transactions.

The list doesn’t end here. The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression in independent and democratic India, though ironically, successive governments have perpetuated the colonial practice of muzzling the media. The Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, regulates publishing in the country. The Press and Registration of Books (Amendment) Act, (Act 55 of 1955) created the office of Registrar of Newspapers of India (RNI). Despite the landmark amendment of 1955, most of the provisions of the PRB Act remain on the statute book and it requires a thorough revamp, in order to bring it in tune with the mores of the time. The tight control exercised by the government over publishing shall remain for a long time to come, unless remedial action in repealing the existing act and the enactment of one afresh.

India exists in two time lines, the modern and the outdated. The fluff of the past needs to be discarded, though the rulers of independent India seem to be in consonance with the erstwhile colonial masters in their perception about the relevance of such laws.

Kumar Anuj

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