Report No. 248
Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations
3.1 In the past the Commission has submitted various reports identifying number of laws as obsolete which demanded repeal (see Law Commission Report Nos 18, 81, 96, 148, 159). Commission's 18th and 81st Reports recommended the repeal of particular colonial law. The 18th Report sought to repeal of 'Converts Marriage Dissolution Act' and the 81st Report recommended the repeal of 'Hindu Widows Remarriage Act'. The 96th Report recommended repeal of the substantial number of obsolete laws.
Once again the Commission in its 148th Report suggested repeal of a number of laws. Following the same path in its 159th Report submitted in the year 1998 the Commission recommended a substantial number of laws for repeal. Many of the laws identified as obsolete in these reports have been repealed. The Government also in 1998 appointed the P.C. Jain Commission which gave its report in September 1998 identifying a large body of laws for the purpose of repeal.
3.2 The Commission found that 253 laws despite having been recommended for repeal in above mentioned reports still exist on the statute-books (for details about these 253 laws please see Appendix - II). The Commission has already notified these laws to the concerned Ministries for their observations as to why these laws still continue to exist.
3.3 The Commission while pursuing the course of study also found that 34 laws which have already been repealed still figure on the Government Website (for details about these 34 laws please refer to Appendix - III). The Commission recommends that these laws may be removed from the Government Website.
3.4 Similarly, the Commission notes that certain laws passed by Parliament are not listed in the Chronological List of Central Acts on the Government Website. A list of these laws can be seen at Appendix - IV. The Commission recommends that this oversight may also be corrected.
3.5 During the course of its study the Commission found that a large number of Appropriation Acts passed during past several years have lost their meaning but these are still shown on statue-books.
It is common knowledge that Appropriation Acts are intended to operate for a limited period of time-authorising expenditures for the duration of one financial year, or less, for example in the case of Vote on Account Bills. Though these Acts are not usually included in any list of Central Acts, either by the Ministry of Law and Justice, or elsewhere, these laws still technically remain on the books.
3.6 It must be emphasised that repealing Appropriation Acts whose terms have ended will in no way cause any negative impact on actions that were validly taken under these Acts. It will, however, serve the purpose of clearing the statute-books and reducing the burden. As a caution and not entertaining scope of any doubt it may be safe to recommend that only those Appropriation Acts that are older than certain date, say 10 years, may be repealed. This itself would result in the repeal of more than 700 laws.
3.7 It may be relevant to note that mechanisms exist in many other countries to systematically remove Appropriation Acts that have served their purpose. For example, in the United Kingdom (interestingly on whose Appropriation Acts we model our own), all Appropriation Acts usually contain a repealing provision which specifically repeals older Appropriation Acts.
In Australia the route followed is that of automatic repeal for Appropriation Acts. Section 89 of Australian Legislation Act of 2001 mandates that certain Acts are automatically repealed and this includes "Appropriation Acts, on the last day of the Financial Year for which it makes appropriation" and thus in other words provisions in the nature of a sunset clause are read into every Appropriation Act by virtue of the Legislation of 2001.
3.8 In India, however, no such mechanism is in place and Appropriation Acts continue to sit on statute-books. The Law Commission recommends that a practice like the one of the United Kingdom to include a repeal clause in the Appropriation Act every year would serve a useful purpose, without necessitating major amendments or introduction of new laws.
3.9 In the process of categorisation of Central statutes, the Law Commission had occasion to examine the contents of more than a thousand statutes. This greatly facilitated the next stage in the process, that is, the determination of statutes prima facie identified as potential candidates for repeal.
3.10 Thus, after completion of the categorisation, the Law Commission proceeded to exhaustively study the statutes in each of the 49 established categories to determine which statutes were fit for repeal. The process was greatly aided by the fact that all the laws governing one subject area had already been grouped together.
This clarified the instances when a later law clearly conflicted with an archaic one, when the purpose of the law had already been fulfilled, or when the subject matter of a statute was so archaic as to no longer require legislation. Based on these parameters, the Law Commission identified 261 statutes that prima facie require further study with a view to providing a firm recommendation for repeal of obsolete statutes and those inconsistent with modern times.
This study has been completed for 72 statutes which are discussed hereinbelow. It is our view that these statutes ought to be repealed according to the recommendations provided in this interim report.
3.11 The list of 261 statutes may be found in Appendix - V. Over the next month, the Law Commission intends to study the status and provisions of these statutes and arrive at recommendations on all relevant statutes that are fit for repeal.