Beyond Section 377: India's many archaic, pointless laws

Here's a strong argument for anyone who wants exhaustive legislative reform of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and other archaic laws.

FP Staff December 27, 2013 13:07:35 IST
Beyond Section 377: India's many archaic, pointless laws

You probably won't ever hear of the term Asiatic power, but the Indian Penal Code, drafted in 1860 and still the key criminal law in India, states specifically that "Whoever wages war against the government of any Asiatic Power in alliance or at peace with the government of India or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war, shall be punished".

That and a host of other absurdities in Indian law form the subject of economist and columnist Bibek Debroy's latest article in The Economic Times.

Beyond Section 377 Indias many archaic pointless laws

The debate over section 377 of the Indian Penal Code raises questions over other archaic sections of law as well. Reuters

From a definition of 'thug', a community that died out in the 1830s, to a section outlawing the singing of an obscene ballad "to the annoyance of others", the Indian Penal Code is replete with sections completely irrelevant to our times and others that are outright absurd today.Clearly, Section 377 is not alone.

"The IPC has been amended several times and there are legitimate arguments for amending/repealing several more sections... But, for something like the IPC, this isn’t the way one should go about legislative reform, tinkering here and slicing there. Instead, having served its purpose, the IPC should be completely revamped," the article says.

Urgently needed legislative reform is not limited to the IPC. Debroy quotes a clause from the East Punjab Agricultural Pests, Diseases and Noxious Weeds Act of 1949, which applies to Delhi. Under this law, if there is a locust attack in Delhi, all adult males will be called upon to fight the invasion, with an announcement to arms made with drum beats. Refusing to answer the call will be a crime, mind you.

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