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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has created a committee to identify laws that need to be repealed in an attempt to eliminate outdated legislation from the statute books.

A government statement said “the committee will carry out a review to identify obsolete laws".

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s move to scrap outdated laws can be traced back to 1998, when the then NDA administration created the Commission on Review of Administrative Law which recommended repeal of 1,382 central laws. Of those, 415 have been repealed.

The new committee will build on that work, the government statement said, and also look at laws that may have become obsolete over the past decade. The committee has to submit its report in three months.

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at an event recently that outdated laws would be scrapped soon. In the just-concluded session of the Lok Sabha, Prasad tabled a repeal Bill that covered 36 outdated laws. The Bill is awaiting passage.

While many laws are simply outdated, duplicity is also a major challenge as both the central and state governments can frame laws on certain issues. The concurrent list under the constitution permits both to legislate on matters such as marriage and divorce.

“A periodic cleaning-up of the statute books helps prevent conflicts and ambiguities creeping into the legal system," said Chakshu Roy, head of outreach at PRS Legislative Research, an independent researcher of legislative processes. “Ensuring that new legislation enacted by Parliament incorporates sunset clauses would ensure that old laws get deleted automatically after a specified number of years."

In some technology-intensive areas, the idea is to replace piecemeal legislation put in place as technology evolved with a more comprehensive law. For instance, the department of telecommunications is working on a communications Bill to replace the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. The draft is expected to be ready by next month and receive cabinet approval by September 2015.

The repeal of outdated laws is, in principle, a good move, said Apar Gupta, a lawyer who works with media and technology laws.

“The underlying basis of laws needs to be examined. For IT (information technology) there is need for a broader project with a regulator to address the convergence of media."

The review and repeal of obsolete laws is part of a larger effort by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA that has already enacted a law amending the way judicial appointments are made.

A March 2002 government statement details the progress made in repealing laws, as suggested by the 1998 committee, and showcases the statutes deemed fit for repeal. It says that out of the 1,382 laws recommended for repeal, “700 Acts pertain to Appropriation Acts, 114 Central Acts relate to State subjects, 166 Central Acts include 11 Pre-Nationalization Acts and 20 Validation Acts, 11 relate to British Statutes still in force, 17 relate to War-time Permanent Ordinances, 35 to Reorganisation Acts, 12 to Laws applicable to High Courts and 12 to Personal Laws".

Prime Minister Modi, in the course of his election campaign, had repeatedly stressed the need for administrative, police as well as legal reforms.

After being elected to office with a clear majority, Modi has focused on streamlining cabinet meetings, doing away with the empowered group of ministers, and amending the All India Services (Conduct) Rules,1968, to ensure that officials of the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service maintain “high ethical standards".

Anuja, Gyan Verma and Shauvik Ghosh contributed to this story.

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