Delhi’s many Rip Van Winkle laws

The Indian Express | 16 February 2016

A seemingly forgotten bunch of meaningless legislation remains alive in the capital. An incomplete list of Delhi’s obsolete laws.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly called for repealing of obsolete laws that do not belong in today’s India, and his government has taken steps to scrap hundreds of such laws. A bunch of archaic — or, at times absurd or irrelevant — laws are, however, alive in the states, including in the national capital. These laws were either enacted specifically for Delhi, or were extended to Delhi.

Here is a selection from these laws — and the reason they need not be there — identified by the public policy think tank, Centre for Civil Society. According to Nidhi Bhalla of CCS, many of these laws are not even readily available in the public domain, and even the list available on the Delhi government’s web site may not be exhaustive.

Towns Nuisances Act, 1889
Intended to amend the Towns Nuisances Act, 1859, and improve and consolidate the law relating to nuisances in places outside the town of Madras. 1889 Act does not define “nuisance”; 1859 Act, which defines nuisance and contains vital sections essential to curb nuisance, was never extended to Delhi.

* Subsumed by a more recent legislation.

Bombay Smoke Nuisances Act, 1912
To create a Smoke Nuisances Commission to oversee the establishment of furnaces and chimneys and impose penalties of Rs 250 for excessive emissions.

* Subsumed by the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981

Punjab Military Transport Act, 1916
To better provide for seizing animals, vehicles, boats, etc., in Delhi for the purposes of military transport. The Act provided for impressments by way of hire or purchase.

* The Act has not been in use.

Uttar Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1916
Section 248, which criminalises begging, makes it a cognizable offence, and provides for confining offenders in “poor-houses”, was extended to Delhi in 1945.

* Constitutional validity of the law is questionable.

Punjab Village and Small Towns Patrol Act, 1918
All “able-bodied adult male inhabitants” liable to patrol their village or town by rotation or draw of lots in times of emergency; fine for not doing so is Rs 5.

* Law is now redundant.

Tamil Nadu District Municipalities Act, 1920
Sections 300, 303(1)(3) and 304, extended to Delhi in 1945, make vaccination compulsory. This was in the light of the then-endemic smallpox.

* Act has outlived its purpose.

Punjab Wild Birds and Animals Protection Act, 1933
To protect and preserve certain wild birds and animals, primarily in non-forest areas of Punjab & Delhi.

* Superseded by the central Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Punjab Copying Fees Act, 1936
Enacted to recover cost of copies made of government Revenue, Judicial, etc. records.

* Superseded by the Indian Evidence Act and the Right to Information Act.

Madras Livestock Improvement Act, 1940
To improve the quality of livestock in the Union Territory of Delhi by regulating the breeding of bulls. Bull-owners need a licence, which can be denied because the bull is of a breed “undesirable to propagate”. The licensing officer can order the castration of non-licensed bulls.

* Redundant law that has not been in use.

Punjab Suppression of Indecent Advertisement Act, 1941
Act deems indecent any advertisement relating to syphilis, gonorrhea, nervous debility or other complaint or infirmity arising from or relating to sexual intercourse, and aims to suppress such advertisements.

* Outdated legislation, superseded by the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

Uttar Pradesh Fire Service Act, 1944
To set up a State Fire Service in the Uttar Pradesh; extended to Delhi in 1945.

* Superseded by Delhi Fire Service Act, 2007.

Madras Temple Entry Authorisation Act, 1947
To authorise entry into, and worship at Hindu temples in Madras by certain classes of Hindus who by custom or usage are excluded from such entry and worship.

* Superseded by Articles 14, 15 and 17 of the Constitution, SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989

East Punjab (Exchange of Prisoners) Act, 1948
On the procedure to be followed for repatriated prisoners from Pakistan who were serving a sentence, undergoing trial or in police custody in Pakistan.

* Act has outlived its purpose.

East Punjab Opium Smoking Act, 1948
Bans manufacture, possession, use of opium; makes it punishable by a year in jail. Those who can produce a certificate from a medical practitioner affirming they cannot give up opium smoking without detriment to their health, will be designated “registered smokers”, and be exempt.

* Superseded by the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

East Punjab Animal Contagious Diseases Act, 1948
Provides for veterinary surgeons and inspectors to examine, isolate or, if needed, destroy animals infected with contagious diseases.

* Superseded by the Prevention and Control of Infectious and Contagious Diseases in Animals Act, 2009.

East Punjab Tractor Cultivation (Recovery of Charges) Act, 1949
To provide for cultivation of certain areas by tractors, and recover the charges. Intended to help farmers who didn’t own a tractor, but could rent them from the government.

* Act is no longer in use.

East Punjab Agricultural Pests, Diseases and Noxious Weeds Act, 1949
State government can declare an insect, animal, plant disease or noxious weed as injurious to plants, and all male persons above the age of 14 have to help in carrying out preventive, remedial or destruction measures.

* Act is no longer in use.

Punjab Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1952
The provides for a licensing authority to permit exhibition by means of a cinematograph.

* Superseded by the Cinematograph Act, 1953.

Delhi (Places of Public Entertainment) Prohibition of Smoking Act, 1953
Enacted to prohibit smoking in places of public entertainment in Delhi during a “prohibited period”, which was 30 minutes before and after, and the duration of the entertainment.

* Superseded by more recent laws.

Delhi Stay of Proceedings (Revenue Courts) Act, 1953
To halt legal proceedings for a year in cases filed under the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887, Agra Tenancy Act, 1901, and Punjab Tenants (Security of Tenure) Act, 1950.

* All three Acts have been repealed.

Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959
Provides for the custody, trial and punishment of beggar offenders and for the detention, training and employment of beggars and their dependents in certified institutions. Any police officer or authorised person can arrest without warrant any person who is found begging.

* Constitutional validity of the law is questionable.

Delhi Primary Education Act, 1960
To provide free and compulsory education to children aged 6-14; local authorities must prepare lists of eligible children, ensure their attendance; punishes parents who fail to send their children to school, and such people who employ children and thus prevent them from attending school.

* Superseded by The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009

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