Govt. is repealing some old laws of Pharma. What are they and what about similar issues with IPC

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This is part of the government’s move to remove outdated laws which don’t serve any definitive purpose. It’s basically to make the legal system more contemporary.

The Law Commission panel had recommended repealing 252 laws over four reports submitted from September to November 2014. The two-member committee created by the PMO identified 1,741 central laws for repeal, out of a total 2,781 Acts

What are these 3 laws?

1) The Pharmacy (Amendment) Act, 1959 (24 of 1959),

2) The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Educational and Research (Amendment) Act, 2002 (28 of 2002), and

3) The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Educational and Research (Amendment) Act, 2007 (19 of 2007)

The area of concern around these old laws

1) There is an overlapping of laws enacted during the British Rule with new laws that have been enacted subsequently

2) Though such laws may not have been used for a long time, as the Law Commission found in many such cases, the possibility of these being misused is always there

Examples of some of the old laws in the book which make little sense

The Treasure Troves Act, 1878 that made it mandatory for any one finding anything worth Rs 10 “hidden below the soil” to hand it over to the government failing which “share of such treasure … shall vest in Her Majesty.”

The Sarais Act, 1867: Under this Act, a sarai has to offer passers-by free drinks of water. This law has been misused to harass hotel owners and in one instance, a Delhi five-star hotel was harassed under the clause, though not prosecuted, for not doing so.

It is important to note that we have a Companies Act that makes CSR compliance mandatory. These activities can be obligated under CSR activities.

The Indian Post Office Act, 1898 is another one in this category that provides that only the federal government has the “exclusive privilege of conveying by post, from one place to another” most letters. The law says only the government is responsible for sending ‘most letters’. In order to circumvent this law, the courier companies operating in India do not send ‘letters’ but ‘documents’. This Act is out of tune with the modern time when courier services have become the preferred mode of sending documents etc.

Indian Law Reporter Acts, 1875 which provides that in the courts of law, only citations published in the Indian Law Reporter series can be used and considered valid. However, in today’s time, there are various private publications which are relied by the courts including the Supreme Court and readily available.

Foreign Recruiting Act, Act 4 of 1874: This law gave the government the power to issue orders to prevent recruitment of Indians by a foreign state. However, the Law Commission in its 43rd report already said that such a power if wielded could violate the constitutional guarantee for freedom of occupation under Article 19. 

Examples of overlapping laws

1) The Elephant Preservation Act of 1879 that makes it an offence to kill elephants is subsumed by the Wildlife Act, 1972 and provides for stringent measure for such killings, has lost its relevance but is yet to be repealed.

2) The Shore Nuisances (Bombay and Kolaba) Act, 1853 is one of the earliest laws relating to water pollution and was meant to regulate dumping of industrial waste into the sea empowering the Collector to take steps to remove such debris etc. to give unhindered passage to ships. This law has lost its relevance in view of the various rules framed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and has not been used for a long time.


The furore around repealing of Section 124A of IPC

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There is a growing demand for the repeal of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. Do you support this demand?

The controversy at JNU and invoking of Sedition charges against JNU Student’s Union President brought back the debate between Sedition and Dissent.

Interestingly, the sedition law was not part of the original IPC. It was dropped by Britishers while enacting the Act, but then they realised its importance in censuring dissenting voices from Indian media, intellectuals, and freedom fighters. It was later introduced by the British in 1870, 10 years after the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was introduced.

One of the prominent convictions include freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was convicted and sent to prison in Mandalay, Burma in 1908. <Recall the consequences of Surat Split and passivity in the Indian freedom struggle for a long period> Interestingly, the country which gave India its sedition law, the United Kingdom, repealed the act in 2009.

To know more about this law and debate + to answer the question put above with meaningful points, read this backgrounder (click here)


Other issues with the IPC and call for modernisation

Sedition law, inserted in 1898: It is legitimate to ask whether we need a law on sedition that we ourselves condemned during the Raj. Learn more about sedition law here

Section 295A, The offence of blasphemy: It should have no place in a liberal democracy <act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God or religious things>

Criminal conspiracy: It can be invoked merely when two people agree to commit an offence without any overt act following the agreement. It was added in 1913 by the colonial masters to deal with political conspiracies. Kehar Singh etc were convicted and sentenced to death under the offence of conspiracy ,<assassination of Indira Gandhi>, though none of them participated in the actual crime or were present at the scene of the crime.

Section 149, Unlawful assembly: The principle of constructive liability under this law is pushed to unduly harsh lengths. Mere membership of the assembly without any participation in the actual crime is sufficient for punishment. Several persons have been sentenced to death and hanged though they were not even present near the scene of the actual crime.

The distinction between “culpable homicide” and “murder” is criticised as the “weakest part of the code”, as the definitions are obscure

Sexual offences under the code reveal patriarchal values and Victorian morality.

Section 377:  Unnatural sexual offences (LGBT right). Want to know about argument of Delhi high court in decriminalizing homosexuality, click here to read about Naz Foundation case

 

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