The dawn of August 15, 1947 brought freedom from British rule, but some archaic laws of the Raj still continued to govern over India till last year, when the present government scrapped a bulk of redundant laws that no longer had a place in modern India. Here are some farcical laws that have either been repealed or still exist.
The Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1914 was used to mandate that anyone applying for the post of motor vehicle inspector in Andhra Pradesh would have to report to office every morning with freshly-brushed teeth. Under the Act, disqualifications of inspectors had been effected based on absurd factors like flat feet, pigeon chests, hammer toes and knock knees.
Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that any man having sexual intercourse with the wife of another man, in the absence of knowledge of her husband, will be charged with adultery. The said crime is punishable for five years. Nowhere does the statute mention the wife of a man committing adultery with another married man. The statute fails to recognise the second party to the crime and states punishment for only the man.
The Indian Aircraft Act, 1934 was instituted for the control of the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of aircraft. The definition of an aircraft had been widened to include balloons and kites which seem to have dominated the air space at that time. Therefore, all provisions of the Act, like gaining license for the possession of an aircraft and rules applying for accidents of an aircraft, were applicable on kites and balloons as well.
Under the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878, the term ‘treasure’ has been defined as “anything of any value hidden in the soil” worth as meagre as Rs 10. Such a thing worth Rs 10 or more if found in the soil was to handed over to the senior local officer. The Act was enacted for archeological and historical purposes to protect and preserve treasures found accidently and for their lawful disposal. Following the enactment of the Act, in 1886 James Burgess, the then Director General issued directions debarring officers from disposing of antiquities found without permission of the government.
The 1867 Sarai Act required sarai-keepers and hotel owners to provide drinking water to passersby. The Act was brought in to ensure proper operation and functioning of inns or sarais. Although all hotels are now registered under state legislations, the said law still exists and is often used by the police to harass hotel owners.
Several states and districts have mandated registration of hotels under the Sarai Act, 1867 and recently the government directed all hotels, restaurants and eateries under the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to grant an open access to all citizens irrespective of them being customers or not from April 1. A discretion fee amounting to Rs 5 can be charged. Although all the hotels, restaurants and eateries of South Delhi fall under the scope of Shops and Establishments Act, no provision under the Act provides open access to citizens. Therefore, it is unclear under what statute such directions were passed but section 7 (2) of the Sarai Act reads something similar to what the government stated and it is safe to say that the direction originates from the Sarai Act.