Let me cite an example from the annals of anti-human trafficking, a sector where I have worked. As is well known, Mumbai is a city with a large number of Bangladeshi infiltrators; people who have left their country and come to India, principally for economic reasons. Among them are many women who have been trafficked – that is those who have not come of their own free will, but have been either coerced to coming or lured into coming under false promises of giving them a job and then sold off into sex or other forms of trafficking. Till recently, the typical scenario when these women were picked up by the police was to book them under the Foreigners Act which penalizes people for traveling without proper travel documents.
This led to a situation where many of these women coming from interior villages of Bangladesh and with no understanding of visas would be arrested and put in prison where they would languish as under trials indefinitely. This was to a great extent because whereas infiltration had been politicized and was well known.
However, there was a very limited understanding of the concept of trafficking and the fact that women who had been forced to cross over to India against their wishes or under false pretenses were not in fact criminals but victims of trafficking.
Treating these victims meant that that when the police picked them up, they were put up in shelter homes and subsequently repatriated through diplomatic channels rather than deported as criminals after serving jail terms. This was a simply because caught among a plethora of laws, the police were simply unclear about the provisions of the various anti trafficking statutes, notably the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act(ITPA) and preferred not to use it even when the situation warranted their use.
The eminent Jurist Nani Palkhivala had once said that the most continuing tendency in India was to have too much government and too little administration; too many laws and too little justice; too many public servants and too little public service; too many controls and too little welfare.
Of all these paradoxes outlined by him, the one about India having too many laws and too little justice has arguably remained the most persistent We as a nation suffer from too many laws which spread confusion, provide deviant motivations for police and judicial corruption, and nurture and entrench a contempt for the principle of the rule of law.
To improve governance in India a freeze should be enforced on new laws while consideration is given to implementing existing ones pending their simplification and validation. Fewer laws are simpler to fathom, and easier to interpret and implement.
Unfortunately, although successive Law Commissions have repeatedly had as their terms of reference, the examination and recommendation regarding repealing of existing laws, those reports has been repeatedly accepted by the government of the day and then shelved. At a time when there is increasing clamor for speedy and efficient administration of justice, it must be recognized that increasing number of laws on the statute book leads to ignorance about all of them on the part of those required enforcing them and the consequence is weak overall governance.
The most popular citizen journalists' reports on merinews chosen automatically on the basis of views and comments
View more jobs