The old order changeth not
Many redundant laws have been repealed. But much of the deadwood waits to be removed, especially in states.
Written by Bibek Debroy | Published: December 29, 2017 12:05 am
The Ramanujam Committee identified 1,741 old statutes that were ready for repeal. (Picture for representational purpose)
Let’s being with a quote from the President’s speech at the inaugural session of National Law Day conference on November 25, 2017. “Access also relates to simplifying laws and repealing outdated laws — an area where the Law Commission has done our country enormous service. I understand the government has identified around 1,800 laws that require to be removed from the statute books. In the past three years, Parliament has repealed about 1,200 obsolete and unnecessary laws. This will decongest the statute books and promote ease of governance.” In India Code, in the list of existing statutes, two of the oldest are both from 1836 — the Bengal Indigo Contracts Act and Bengal Districts Act. Why should these remain on statute books? If 1,200 have been repealed, what about the remaining 600? How many statutes are there, statutes meaning those enacted by the Union government? While state-level statutes are also important, those aren’t part of India Code listing. In 2014, there were three complementary initiatives. First, in September 2014, the PMO set up the Ramanujam Committee to identify central government statutes ready for repeal. Statutes have to be specifically repealed, because in common with common law traditions, India doesn’t have a system of desuetude. Unless specifically identified and repealed, statutes are open-ended and remain on the books. The Ramanujam Committee gave us a database of 2,781 existing Union-level statutes. Of these, 380 were enacted between 1834 and 1949, before the Constitution came into being.
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