Too many flaws in Delhi's laws

Obsolete, ambiguous, confusing. Yes, we are talking about certain laws governing this city. The fact of the matter is that a majority of rules and regulations in the Capital’s statute book are either too archaic to be applicable in today’s time or were originally framed for other states.

‘‘There is no denying that certain Acts framed for other states, that too a good 50-60 years ago, are the laws which govern Delhi,’’ says a senior official of the law department. For the record, a total of 174 Acts govern Delhi. Of this figure, 71 Acts either owe their origin to other states or are obsolete. ‘‘Even though Delhi has its own legislative assembly, the city has to bear with Acts whose functionality leaves a lot to be desired,’’ adds the official.

Among the Acts framed for other states which have been extended to Delhi are: the East Punjab Agricultural Pests Diseases and Noxious Weeds Act, 1949; the Punjab Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1952; the Agra Tenancy Act, 1901; the UP Land Revenue Act, 1901; the West Bengal Preventional Property Act, 1976; the Bombay Smoke Nuisance Act, 1912; the Orissa Warehousing Act, 1956; the Haryana Relief of Agricultural Indebtedness Act, 1976; the Himachal Pradesh Khadi & Village Industries Act, 1966; and the Mysore Race Course Licensing Act, 1952.

Similarly, with the Punjab Excise Act, 1914 governing the city’s liquor laws, there are far too many hiccups for the Capital. ‘‘Attempts have been made to replace the Act with a new one, but this has not been possible as yet,’’ reveals an official of the excise department. On these lines, the punishment for rash driving in Delhi is still governed by the Motor Vehicle Act, 1861, which was framed while keeping horse-driven carriages in mind. ‘‘Punishment for this offence certainly needs to be made more stringent,’’ says joint commissioner (traffic) Maxwell Pereira. But that’s not the end of the story. The MCD Act, 1957 is archaic to the extent that it stipulates the maximum penalty the civic agency can impose as Rs 50!

‘‘The government has already started the process of repealing certain laws which have become antiquated,’’ offers Delhi chief secretary Shailaja Chandra, ‘‘Various departments have been directed to initiate follow-up action.’’ So far so good. But rather like the archaic laws Delhi lives with, officialdom is known to be an old hand at drafting paperwork which solves no purpose.

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