Legal reforms – consolidation of scattered law

Sh Narender Modi,                                                       No.SKG/PMO/005 11 Jun 2014
Prime Minister of India,
5 Race Course Road,
New Delhi-110003.


Sub: Legal reforms.

Ref: Concerned Ministry – Law & Finance

I  appreciate your concern about the need to weed out outdated and redundant laws and asking bureaucrats to complete the exercise in a time bound manner. The increased burden of so many regulations has actually increased lawlessness – more laws means less enforcement. However, one important associated concern needs to be addressed is the consolidation of scattered law.

There are many complicated laws supported by Rules, Notifications, Circulars, Clarifications, Court Pronouncement making its understanding beyond the reach of a common man and making is a prerogative of advocates only. In contract if we take the example of RBI it regularly keeps on consolidating the circulars, notifications etc. and reader find it easy to understand because all the material is available at one place and no contradiction creeps in. Whereas the Income Tax Act which faces most frequent amendments still has circular issued as long as 3-4 decades earlier in force besides there is heavy dependence on tribunal/court orders. This clearly indicates there is no effort done to to consolidate law and present it in an easy & understandable manner. There is heavy dependency on rules, circulars, clarifications and judgments etc. Like RBI it should be mandated for tax laws as well whenever any update version of law is issued it must encompass the impact of all the circulars issued & the issues settled by Supreme Court till that date. This in fact is applicable to all taxation laws. Even after 2 decades of introduction of Service Tax there is no Service Tax Act – whole service tax regime is operating thru patch work of amendments to Finance Act 1994, circulars, notifications, rules.

Consolidation will definitely encourage compliance because of enhanced transparency & simplicity. In spill over form it is even difficult for departmental officers to understand it.

(2) In addition, at many places penalties prescribed by law are unrealistically low making it ineffective, which again stresses the need for review of old laws enacted more than 4-5 decades earlier. This may be done not only to update some of the provisions but also weed out the redundancy. E.g. section 283 of IPC prescribes a penalty of Rs.200/- (only) for causing danger or obstruction in public way or line of navigation.

If enactments of new laws, without weeding out old ones, keep on going with same pace it will make the life of common man very burdensome who will have law for every breath.

In the absence of review & consolidation, duplicity is also happening at many places; new laws are enacted office orders are issued without first thoroughly examining the existing ones. New ones are imposed on existing laws. For example (i) for road safety, (ii) Environment protection, (iii) Food safety there are so many laws, regulations, circulars, court pronouncement in scatted manner at both state & central level that this in itself has become a mess.

The requirement of law concerning road safety, traffic, food adulteration & environment is same throughout the country irrespective of any specific location. At least for these as much consolidation, at center level, should be done as possible. The dispersed form of law, on one side, gives rise to corruption because it gives discretionary power to executives and on other side make whole situation ambiguous and make people believe that we have confusing laws which are not transparent.

I request that a committee be constituted to examine all the laws with a view to examine:

(i) Consolidating the scattered provisions,
(ii) Updating penalties,
(iii) Weeding out redundancy and
(iv) Fixing pre-defined life of circular issued under taxation laws e.g. any circular issued concerning taxation should be in force maximum up to next budget where it must get consolidated in main enactment.

Citizen’s reporter
S K Goyal