The Law Commission of India is a non-statutory, executive body constituted by the government for a fixed tenure of three years. The panel that has mainly legal and judicial experts acts as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law & Justice. The Law Commission has a pre-independence origin. However, the first panel in independent India came into being in 1955. Since then, we’ve had 21 Law Commissions, each of them making important contributions towards the progressive development and codification of laws in India. The 22nd Law Commission was approved on 19th February by the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Law Reform has been a continuing process particularly during the last 300 years or more in Indian history. In the ancient period, when religious and customary law occupied the field, reform process had been ad hoc and not institutionalised through duly constituted law reform agencies. However, since the third decade of the nineteenth century, Law Commissions were constituted by the Government from time to time and were empowered to recommend legislative reforms with a view to clarify, consolidate and codify particular branches of law where the Government felt the necessity for it. The first such Commission was established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay which recommended codification of the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and a few other matters. Thereafter, the second, third and fourth Law Commissions were constituted in 1853, 1861 and 1879 respectively which, during a span of fifty years contributed a great deal to enrich the Indian Statute Book with a large variety of legislations on the pattern of the then prevailing English Laws adapted to Indian conditions. The Indian Code of Civil Procedure, the Indian Contract Act, The Indian Evidence Act, the Transfer of Property Act etc are products of the labour of the first four Law Commissions.
- After independence, the Constitution of India with its Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy gave a new direction to law reform geared to the needs of a democratic legal order in a plural society.
- Though the Constitution stipulated the continuation of pre-Constitution Laws (Article 372) till they are amended or repealed, there had been demands in Parliament and outside for establishing a Central Law Commission to recommend revision and updating of the inherited laws to serve the changing needs of the country.
- The Government of India reacted favourably and established the First Law Commission of Independent India in 1955 with the then Attorney-General of India, Mr. M. C. Setalvad, as its Chairman. Since then twenty one more Law Commissions have been appointed, each with a three-year term and with different terms of reference.
The twenty-first law commission:
- The Twenty-first Law Commission was constituted through a Government Order with effect from 1st September, 2015.
- The Terms of Reference of the Twenty-first Law Commission are as follows:
- Review/Repeal of obsolete laws:
- Identify laws which are no longer needed or relevant and can be immediately repealed.
- Identify laws which are not in harmony with the existing climate of economic liberalization and need change.
- Identify laws which otherwise require changes or amendments and to make suggestions for their amendment.
- Consider in a wider perspective the suggestions for revision/amendment given by Expert Groups in various Ministries/Departments with a view to coordinating and harmonizing them.
- Consider references made to it by Ministries/Departments through the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice in respect of legislations having bearing on the working of more than one Ministry/Department
- Suggest suitable measures for quick redressal of citizens grievances, in the field of law.
- Law and Poverty
- Examine the Laws which affect the poor and carry out post-audit for socio-economic legislations.
- Take all such measures as may be necessary to harness law and the legal process in the service of the poor.
- Keep under review the system of judicial administration to ensure that it is responsive to the reasonable demands of the times and in particular to secure:
- Elimination of delays, speedy clearance of arrears and reduction in costs so as to secure quick and economical disposal of cases without affecting the cardinal principle that decision should be just and fair.
- Simplification of procedure to reduce and eliminate technicalities and devices for delay so that it operates not as an end in itself but as a means of achieving justice.
- Improvement of standards of all concerned with the administration of justice.
- Examine the existing laws in the light of Directive Principles of State Policy and to suggest ways of improvement and reform and also to suggest such legislations as might be necessary to implement the Directive Principles and to attain the objectives set out in the Preamble to the Constitution.
- Examine the existing laws with a view for promoting gender equality and suggesting amendments thereto.
- Revise the Central Acts of general importance so as to simplify them and to remove anomalies, ambiguities and inequities.
- Recommend to the Government measure for making the statute book up-to-date by repealing obsolete laws and enactments or parts thereof which have outlived their utility.
- Consider and to convey to the Government its views on any subject relating to law and judicial administration that may be specifically referred to it by the Government through Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs).
- Consider the requests for providing research to any foreign countries as may be referred to it by the Government through Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs).
- Examine the impact of globalization on food security, unemployment and recommend measures for the protection of the interests of the marginalized.
22nd Law Commission of India:
It will consist of:
- a full-time Chairperson;
- four full-time Members (including Member-Secretary)
- Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs as ex-officio Member;
- Secretary, Legislative Department as ex officio Member; and
- not more than five part-time Members.
The Law Commission of India shall, inter-alia:
- identify laws which are no longer needed or relevant and can be immediately repealed;
- examine the existing laws in the light of Directive Principles of State Policy and suggest ways of improvement and reform and also suggest such legislations as might be necessary to implement the Directive Principles and to attain the objectives set out in the Preamble of the Constitution;
- consider and convey to the Government its views on any subject relating to law and judicial administration that may be specifically referred to it by the Government through Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs);
- Consider the requests for providing research to any foreign countries as may be referred to it by the Government through Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs);
- take all such measures as may be necessary to harness law and the legal process in the service of the poor;
- revise the Central Acts of general importance so as to simplify them and remove anomalies, ambiguities and inequities;
- Before finalizing its recommendations, the Commission will consult the nodal Ministry/ Department (s) and such other stakeholders as the Commission may deem necessary for the purpose.