Amidst all the hue and cry around the repealing of controversial farm laws, the Modi government’s war on archaic laws in India missed the bus of media headlines. The consistent insistence by the Modi government on reforming the Indian legal system is at the final frontier as the government is set to repeal 100 more British era laws.
Modi government to repeal 100 more laws
Union Minister of state for law, SP Baghel has revealed that along with farm laws, 100 more laws are set to be repealed by the Union government. Speaking at an event in Jaipur, Baghel said that the government has made all the preparations and these laws will be withdrawn in the upcoming parliamentary session. Additionally, he said that these laws are being withdrawn because they are obsolete and do not fit in the present social-political environment of the country.
Repealing archaic laws was a poll promise
Prime Minister Modi has been a vocal advocate for minimum interference by a country’s legal system in its citizen’s freedom. During his campaign for the 2014 general elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised how old laws are creating hurdles in the country’s development. He had promised to repeal 10 obsolete laws for every new law his government will introduce. Speaking at the 2015 global business summit organised by Economic Times, PM had said, “Our country suffers from an excess of old and unnecessary laws which obstruct people and businesses. We began the exercise of identifying unnecessary laws and repealing them. 1,877 Central laws have been identified for repeal.”
NDA government’s pro-active legal reforms
- Within one year of coming to power, the NDA government introduced two bills to repeal overall 125 laws in the country. Repealing and Amending Act, 2015 made 35 laws lose their relevance while Repealing and Amending Act (second), 2015 cut short the life of 90 such laws.
- In an RTI reply, it was revealed that the government repealed a total of 1,050 old era acts in 2016 itself. The humongous victory was achieved through the introduction of two bills in the parliament. One bill named Appropriation Acts (Repeal) Bill 2015 ended up removing 758 laws from the law books, while another Repealing and Amending (Third) Bill, 2015 weeded out 295 such acts. This was the biggest reform taken by any government in the history of independent India.
- One year later, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the then law minister introduced two new bills to repeal 245 more obsolete laws haunting the legal system of the country. The bill was approved by both houses of the parliament at the end of 2017.
- Similarly, the Repealing and Amending Act, 2017 removed 104 acts from the law books.
- In 2019, President gave his assent to curtailing of 58 acts through The Repealing and Amending Act, 2019
Not just laws, the Modi government has taken some huge steps to reduce irrelevant hurdles in the development of the nation. In September 2021, Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry informed the nation that the NDA government has reduced over 22,000 compliances and decriminalised 103 minor offences to boost the ease of doing business in the country.
Obsolete and archaic laws- A Britishers’ legacy which was virtually untouched in independent India
Though India got its political freedom from Britishers in 1947, our constitutional makers put in very little effort to change the old order of British laws in the country. Before the Modi government, only 1,301 such laws made by the British administration were repealed in the country. Between 1950 and 1998, the Congress government did not put in any effort in this direction. When the nationalist BJP government under Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power in 1998, they had created a committee to review the relevance of British era laws in the country. Later PM Modi formed a committee headed by R Ramanujam, the then secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office to review all the acts recommended for repeal by the Vajpayee administration.
Problem with these laws
The laws which have either passed through or in the pipeline of repealing are a legacy of Britishers. When these laws were made, Indians were considered as inferiors by the Britishers. Any such law is not sustainable in a democratic society, where the government is considered to be the ultimate servant of the people. Prime Minister Modi himself proclaims that it would be better to call him ‘Pradhan Sevak’, rather than Pradhan Mantri.
At a time when Judiciary is overworked with more than 4.5 crores pending cases, these extra laws only end up increasing the burden of law-enforcing agencies. Neeti Shikha, former national coordinator of the Repeal of Laws Project at Centre for Civil Society while talking to Business Standard had said, “The issue with redundant and archaic laws existing in the statute books is that they can surface any time and create a hurdle for citizens. They increase unpredictability and affect good governance and ease of doing business,”
The mere fact that more than 2,000 such laws had been thriving in India is a testament to how the Congress government undermined India’s civilisational values. British laws and law codes like the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and The Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) owe their morality to the Judeo-Christian values of the western world. The old system needs to be dismantled, and the Indianisation of our legal system should be the way forward.