The Lok Sabha today passed two Bills to repeal 245 obsolete and archaic laws, including the 158-year-old Calcutta Pilots Act of 1859 and the 1911 Prevention of Seditious Meeting Act. Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the old and many irrelevant pre-independence laws were the “unfortunate part of the colonial legacy” and repealing them was a progressive move that reflects the “pro-reform” approach of the government. He was replying to a debate on the Repealing and Amending Bill and the Repealing and Amending (Second) Bill which would repeal these age-old laws. Some of the old acts that have been repealed are the Hackney Carriage Act 1879 which was legislated for the regulation and control of hackney-carriages, Dramatic Performance Act 1876 when theatre was being used a medium of protest against the British rule.
Another such old act which was repealed by the Lok Sabha was ‘The Ganges Tolls Act, 1867’ which provided for collecting toll “not exceeding 12 annas” on certain boats and steamers plying on the Ganga to improve navigation of the river between Allahabad (UP) and Dinapore (Bihar). Prasad said 1029 old laws were first repealed by Parliament in 1950 and the last time such old laws were abolished during the Atal Behari Vajpayee government that repealed old laws in 2004.
After the Modi government came to power a two-member panel was set up to look into the repealing of archaic laws and the panel also consulted the Centre and the state government before recommending the legislations to be repealed. Some 1824 acts were repealed after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over the reins of the government, the law minister said.
When Prasad spoke on abolishing the Prevention of Seditious Meeting Act, 1911, he was needled by BJD MP Tathagata Satpathy who alluded to the use of the sedition provision in the Indian Penal Code against opposition activists by the BJP governments in certain states. To this, the Law Minister said that all senior ministers in the BJP government including the prime minister had vehemently opposed Emergency in 1975 and his government was in favour of the freedom of the press. Patidar leader Hadrik Patel and JNU student union leader Kanhaiya Kumar too were booked for sedition.
BJD MP Pinaki Misra lauded the government and said 1301 “obsolete” laws were repealed in last 65 years, but after the Modi government took over 1824 legislations were repealed but the pace has to be accelerated. BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi said abolishing of old laws was “swachchata abhiyan” by the House, drawing a parallel to the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan, the flagship programme of the Modi dispensation.
Shiv Sena MP Vinayak Raut demanded repealing of Article 370, while Narendra Sawaikar, BJP MP from Goa, said his state was the only one to practise the Uniform Civil Code.