By Samruddhi Mahapatra
Edited by Nandita Singh,Senior editor,The Indian Economist
It has been 67 years since our independence and 64 years since our constitution came into effect. Since then, we have been proudly calling ourselves the ‘world’s biggest democracy’. We may take pride in our economic development, and other technological advances, but has our law similarly progressed with the times?
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) was drafted by the British Government in 1860, and came into effect in British India in 1862, during the early period of British Raj. What comes as a shock is that some of these laws have not been amended ever since they were drafted by our British colonisers.
Our Constitution guarantees Right to Freedom as a fundamental right, which includes the right to speech. However, section 297A of the IPC degrades this fundamental right. Blasphemy is an antiquated concept that religious preachers have misused for their own advantage. Free-thinkers and rationalists are attacked for stating truths verified through science. Amit Trivedi, the cartoonist, was arrested for stating the dire truth about Indian politics.
Reservations should be made on the basis of the financial condition of the candidate, not caste, as aid should to go to those who truly need it. The idea of reservation was to ensure that the unprivileged have an equal chance to compete with the others. Giving them aid with textbooks, scholarships, etc. is a more viable way to help them. This also ensures that the fair foundation of merit is not compromised.
Corruption has to be criminalised. Surprisingly, there are no stringent laws against corruption. Severe actions should be taken against anyone who is caught, to the extent that they should be banned from holding any public office. Yet, here we have our members of parliament, who have several pending criminal cases against them, most of which somehow never manage to reach a conclusion. Steps should be taken to deal with the massive backlog of pending cases. Increasing court hours and the number of judges would be a good start in the right direction.
We all condemn and express sorrow when we hear about women being raped across the country, most of us unaware that there is a kind of rape that is legal in the eyes of the society and law. The law does not recognise marital rape, as rape, per se. Section 375 of the IPC states that, “Sexual Intercourse or act by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.” The worst part about this is that it has still not been amended, even after the legal marriage age was increased to 18.
The Uniform Civil Code reflects the true nature of the secular society that India claims to be. While everyone is free to practise their religious beliefs, I also think court marriages should be legalised. This will help in keeping track of and preventing child marriages, forced marriages and honour killings.
I think it is high time that Section 377 be amended. Marriage should be defined as being a gender neutral institution. This law was formed in the 1860s, and a hundred and fifty years down the line, we still haven’t moved ahead.
Though Section 498A was an attempt to emancipate women, there has been severe misuse of this law. While dowry is still a major issue for women, there has to be a certain procedure to deal with it. With this law, the husband and his family can be imprisoned even without proof. This law tips the balance far too much to the other side.
Regularising the education system is the need of the times. Students should not be forced to study only local languages and subject matters. Practical education should be given more emphasis. We cannot have a UGC suddenly thrusting a four year plan on unprepared students in one the most premier institutes of India. Lastly, but also perhaps extremely pertinent to India’s growth as an objective economic entity, religious education should not be given legal acceptance.
Article 370 is another issue that hampers progress. It prevents the people of Jammu and Kashmir from making use of even the most basic fundamental rights. It serves no practical purpose other than harming religious and national sentiments. It is a major hindrance to the integration of the nation.
Granted that no system in the world can be perfect, I still hold the opinion that these are some basic laws that need to be amended. Archaic laws have no space in a progressive nation. India has been striving forward with much determination, and problems such as these, which do have a solution, albeit a difficult one, should not become obstacles in India’s path of growth.
Samruddhi is a student, pursuing English Hons. in Kirori Mal College. She is an avid reader and loves learning new things. An aspiring writer, she believes that everything around us has a story to tell. With big dreams, she strives forward to achieve them. She wants her writings to be read by everyone and appreciates constructive criticism.