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Report No. 248

Chapter 1

Introduction & Background

1.1 A project "Identification of Obsolete Laws" was undertaken by the 19th Law Commission. Ministries / Departments of the Government were approached (on 22.05.2012) seeking the list of such laws / Acts administratively concerned with them respectively. Subsequently after the constitution of the 20th Law Commission, a reminder was sent to these Ministries / Departments.

Some responses though not very significant in number, were received. In the meantime, a letter from the Hon'ble Minister for Law and Justice dated 24 June 2014 asking the Commission to give its suggestions and recommendations on the same subject was received.

1.2 Keeping above in view, the Commission decided to pursue a study "The Legal Enactments: Simplification and Streamlining" and a Committee for the purpose comprising Justice S N Kapoor, Member, Law Commission, Prof. Mool Chand Sharma, Member, Law Commission, Prof. Yogesh Tyagi, Member (Part Time), Law Commission, Mr. Arghya Sengupta and Ms. Srijoni Sen, Advocates from Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy has been appointed.

1.3 The Study would be completed in instalments and accordingly a number of volumes of the reports will be submitted to the Government as the study proceeds. In a nutshell the Study will chart out a detailed roadmap and make suggestions for updating, simplifying, streamlining and rationalising, and amending laws and legal structures.

1.4 In the Commission's view a study like this has a holistic approach and long-term objectives to achieve including that of suggesting ways and steps for modernisation and reforms of laws and of legal structures. Such a study has to begin by identifying and recommending repealing of laws which are obsolete and have ceased to be relevant.

More important. Such a study needs to identify laws which are inconsistent with modern and newer laws, with Supreme Court Judgements and international conventions signed and ratified by India. Also such a study is required to focus its efforts to cull out those laws that impose heavy burden and whose costs outweigh their benefits and are thus in need of simplification, amendments or repeal.

The study also need to attend to crucial and consequential requirement of identifying and suggesting laws which need amendments so as to be relevant and in tune with the changing needs of the time.

1.5 As a first, and as a foundational step for accomplishing larger objectives of the study the Commission is required to begin by identifying laws which have become obsolete and thus to be recommended for immediate repeal. In making such a beginning of its study the Commission took special note of what was earlier observed in its 96th report:

"Every legislature is expected to undertake what may be called the periodical spring-clearing of the corpus of its Statute Law, in order that dead wood may be removed and citizens may be spared of the inconvenience of taking notice of laws which have ceased to bear any relevance to current conditions. This process in itself, assumes still greater importance in modern times when Statue Law is growing in bulk and magnitude.".

One of the main reasons identified by the 96th report calling for repealing obsolete laws was the call of modern times. It is important to note that the 96th report was presented way back in the year 1984 and two decades since then have seen such fast changes which probably were never witnessed in the history so far. Thus, the force of the call for repeal of obsolete laws and need for modernisation gets reinforced.

1.6 In the course of the Commission's research, unpublished work by the 100 Laws Repeal Project, a citizens' coalition initiative comprising Centre for Civil Society, Macrofinance Group of NIPFP, amongst others was brought to our notice, together with several scholarly pieces and newspaper articles on this issue. The Commission would like to acknowledge these contributions which benefited its Report.


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