MP Tathagata Satpathy’s pitch: Make cannabis legal, why ban porn

The government is in the process of repealing 1,863 obsolete and redundant laws and statutes as they have either outlived their utility or are irrelevant now.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Updated: August 7, 2015 10:40:06 am
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Around six months ago, he had courted controversy and praise in equal measure for admitting on a social media platform that he had “smoked cannabis many times” while in college. On Friday, Tathagata Satpathy, 59 the Biju Janata Dal’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha, demanded that provisions in law that make cannabis illegal need to be taken down.

He also came down heavily on the government for banning pornographic websites – he agreed these “should not be watched” but objected to the “attitude” in banning them. He demanded abolition of Section 377 which criminalises homosexuality, and sought a discussion in the House on the uniform civil code.

Reading out the 10-minute speech from his iPad, Satpathy clubbed these under what he called “socially evil laws”.

Satpathy was participating in a discussion on The Repealing and Amending (Fourth) Bill, 2015, which was passed by voice vote later.

“These old and draconian laws have harmed many people. For example, in my state, bhang is a derivative of a plant called Indica sativa. It is something that is taken in religious festivals. But… the law… makes it illegal,” Satpathy said, demanding a relook at NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act.

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Linking the rise of alcoholism among the poor and in villages to the absence of legally available cannabis, Satpathy said women in villages have always objected to alcohol being sold openly at government shops while the “law comes down heavily on intoxicants of the poorer people”.

The government is in the process of repealing 1,863 obsolete and redundant laws and statutes as they have either outlived their utility or are irrelevant now. This the government says would “clean up the statute book”.

Bringing up the ban on pornography, Satpathy sought to draw the government’s attention on the Information Technology Act saying banning of websites is tantamount to moral policing by the bureaucracy. “Today, it could be a bad site, it could be a pornographic site which we all support should not be watched by people. But when you start doing something like that, then there is no end to the attitude that I will only ban this much and no more,” he said. Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda kept smiling.

On homosexuality being criminalised, Satpathy said, “We are also aware that socially relevant laws which are becoming archaic also need a re-look and probably they need repealing also… I would give an example of something like Section 377, the law relating to small section of society. But it has a relevance to a particular kind of people who are human beings, who have feelings like us, but their sexual needs are different from a lot of people we know,” he said.

Satpathy linked the need to discuss the uniform civil code to the problem of ISIS. “If you want to combat those evil organisations like the ISIS, then you have to become a more alert and a more modern society which encompasses with affection every citizen of the nation. The moment you start differentiating, the moment you start dividing society, then you fall prey to the evil organisations like the ISIS,” he said.

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