Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

Why Special and Local Laws also need to be reformed?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: SLL

Mains level: Reforming criminal justice system

Special and Local Laws

Central Idea

  • Recent legislative bills aimed at amending criminal laws in India have garnered significant attention for ushering in long-awaited reforms.
  • However, these reforms primarily focus on one aspect of India’s complex criminal justice system.
  • What remains often overlooked are the extensive Special and Local Laws (SLLs) that encompass some of the most critical offences and procedures.

What are Special and Local Laws (SLLs)?

  • Cognizable crimes are categorized either under the ‘Indian Penal Code (IPC)’ or under the ‘Special and Local Laws (SLL)’.
  • The SLL identify criminal activities that the state government frames for specific issues.

Significance of SLLs

  • Quantitative Importance: In 2021, nearly 39.9% of all cognizable offenses registered fell under SLLs, according to Crime in India Statistics.
  • Qualitative Relevance: SLLs have ignited crucial debates concerning the boundaries of the state’s power in criminalization, particularly with respect to individual rights and liberties.

Need for Reform in SLLs

  • Diverse Substantive Issues: SLLs, like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA), suffer from ambiguous and vague definitions of offenses, raising concerns about their application to civil or regulatory wrongs.
  • Procedural Challenges: SLLs have diluted universally accepted due process values, with examples like expanded search and seizure powers under the UAPA and admissibility of police-recorded confessions under the MCOCA.
  • Bail Hurdles: Stringent provisions under SLLs, such as Section 43(D)(5) of the UAPA and Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, make securing bail nearly impossible.

Shift from Complete Codification

  • IPC’s Original Vision: The Indian Penal Code (IPC), enacted in 1860, aimed to comprehensively codify all criminal laws, inspired by Jeremy Bentham’s idea of a “Pannomion”—a single, comprehensive collection of rules.
  • Changing Landscape: Over time, there has been a shift towards enacting and applying SLLs, which has deviated from the original concept of complete codification.
  • Unsuccessful Aspects: While the IPC faces criticism for its archaic morality and colonial roots, it is essential to acknowledge its success in codifying penal laws.

Addressing the Limitation: A Second Generation of Reforms

  • Incorporating SLLs: All SLLs that criminalize or seek to criminalize specific conduct should be integrated as separate chapters within the larger penal code.
  • Procedural Integration: SLLs creating distinct procedures for reporting offenses, arrests, investigations, prosecutions, trials, evidence, and bail should be included either as separate procedures within the CrPC or as exceptions to its general provisions.


  • As India increasingly relies on Special and Local Laws for various reasons, it is vital to ensure that these laws do not overshadow the original concept of codifying penal laws, as embodied in the IPC and CrPC.
  • Failing to incorporate the substantive and procedural aspects of SLLs into ongoing reform efforts represents a significant limitation.
  • Therefore, a second generation of reforms is imperative to address these gaps and maintain the integrity of India’s criminal justice system.

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch