Repealing Obsolete Laws in Maharashtra: Part II Post-independence laws (1947-1960)

Repealing Obsolete Laws in Maharashtra: Part II Post-independence laws (1947-1960)

Setting the Context

A “statute book” refers to the authoritative compilation of all legislation enacted by a nation or state. Numerous antiquated statutes persist in statute books, resulting in a predicament. People may become confused by such laws, and law enforcement officials and litigants may abuse it. Hence, it is imperative for governments to frequently cleanse, revise, and modify their statutes.

In 2014, the Law Commission of India and Ramanujam Committee recommended that state legislatures should eliminate 62 and 83 laws, respectively. The Central Government subsequently communicated with all State Governments, including Maharashtra, requesting the repeal of outdated legislation.

Furthermore, the Maharashtra Government released the Manual of Good Governance. The reference to the “rule of law” is consistently included in every statement of “good governance”. The Manual recommends that every department of the State Government should regularly constitute a forum for reviewing the laws it administers to repeal laws which are obsolete.  Towards this, the Maharashtra State Law Commission (“MSLC”) released a series of ten reports in 2002, which suggested 191 laws for repeal. Following this, in 2016, the State Legislature enacted two laws that collectively repealed 376 obsolete laws in the State. However, out of the 191 laws recommended for repeal by the MSLC, only 96 laws have been repealed by the two acts. Several archaic and redundant laws continue to exist in Maharashtra’s statute book.

About the Project and this report

This project has been undertaken by Vidhi Maharashtra to identify obsolete laws that must be repealed by the Maharashtra State Legislature. Given that there are over a thousand laws in effect in Maharashtra, the project’s conclusions will be released in a series of reports. Report 1, released in 2023, examined all Maharashtra pre-independence legislation to assess obsolescence.

We identified 165 pre-independence Maharashtra legislation that appeared to be in force in Maharashtra. Of these 165 laws, 40 had been expressly repealed. After analysing the remaining 125 laws, we recommended 30 laws for retention and 47 laws for repeal. We also recommended 46 laws for review by the State.

In this report, we examine all laws enacted after India’s independence on August 15, 1947 but before the formation of the State of Maharashtra on May 1, 1960.  Thereafter, we determine the legislative competence over such laws and assess whether they are in use or have become obsolete. Finally, the report suggests whether these laws are to be repealed or retained. Where additional data points are required to determine whether these laws are in use or they are not available in the public domain, this report suggests that the State Government review these laws to determine obsolescence.

Key Findings of the Report

  1. Of the 283 laws that appeared to be in force, 37 laws have already been explicitly repealed. Despite them being repealed, such laws continue to appear on multiple government databases. Therefore, 246  laws are in force.

2. On mapping the legislative competence for laws in force, we discovered that the legislative competence of 180 laws lies with the Maharashtra State Legislature. The legislative competence of 9 laws lies with the Parliament and in 39 laws, the legislative competence was with the Parliament and the State Legislature as the subject matter pertained to a matter in the Concurrent List. Separately, the Governor of Maharashtra was the sole legislative body in respect of 8 laws

3. 162 laws are obsolete and 70 laws are in use. The Legislative competence for the 162 obsolete laws is given in the figure below.

Recommendations and The Way Forward

The presence of obsolete laws poses significant challenges to citizens and law enforcement agencies. An up-to-date statute book is crucial for the well functioning of any state. Vidhi’s finding in this report highlights the importance of regular review of laws by states to determine their relevance. The report makes three categories of recommendations and provides explanations for the same:

  1. Repeal (124 laws);
  2. Retain (65 Acts);
  3. Review (47 laws).

The report also identified the Departments in the State machinery that enforce these laws in force. Of the 124 laws suggested for repeal, a significant number of Acts are administered by the Revenue and Forest & Law and Judiciary Departments.

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