India wields the axe on Her Majesty’s “laughable” laws

Good news. Amusing, too.

(Reuters) – If you happen to unearth treasure worth even as little as 10 rupees (16 U.S. cents) in India, don’t even think of pocketing it – that’s because under a law introduced by the former British colonial rulers, it still belongs to “Her Majesty”.

Now, however, the Treasure Trove Act of 1878 and nearly 300 other outdated laws are set to be repealed in the largest-ever cull of rules that make India one of the most puzzling places in the world to do business.


On the chopping block along with the Treasure Trove Act is an 1838 law that says property in an area of the former imperial capital of Calcutta can only be sold to the East India Company, which laid the foundations of the British Empire but ceased to exist more than 150 years ago.

An 1855 measure removing a certain tribe from the purview of local laws because it was an “uncivilised race” will also go.


Flying kites or balloons without police permission is illegal across India as they are classified as an “aircraft” under a 1934 act, and a World War II decree outlaws the dropping of pamphlets from the air in the state of Gujarat.

Under the Motor Vehicles Act, the state of Andhra Pradesh enacted a law that a motor inspector must have a clean set of teeth and anyone with a “pigeon chest, knock knees, flat foot, hammer toes and fractured limbs” will be disqualified.

“There are instances where the entire statute is dysfunctional,” said prominent economist Bibek Debroy, who advised Modi during his election campaign and has written a book on the absurdities of Indian law.

He said that obscure laws can sometimes be abused.

A swanky New Delhi hotel was threatened with a lawsuit for refusing to give water to a person who invoked an 1867 act under which a rest house must offer passers-by free drinks of water.

Factory owners have suffered at the hands of government inspectors who insist on rules requiring spittoons to be kept in the premises as well as earthen pots for drinking water. Even if factories install modern fire extinguishers, they must still have red-painted buckets with water and sand to put out a blaze.

Would that Western countries would also abolish anachronistic laws, such as laws against possession of marijuana, for instance…

8 thoughts on “India wields the axe on Her Majesty’s “laughable” laws

  1. Pingback: Weird anachronistic colonial laws still in effect in India | Will S.' Random Weirdness Blog

    • Yeah, though governments can be strong and small, or strong and big; and more efficient government can nevertheless be more tyrannical than a less efficient one.

      I have some libertarian leanings, but I’m not a libertarian. I buy into some of their beliefs, but not all.

      • No, I wouldn’t call that anarchy; they did have one ruler or ‘judge’, at least. I’d call that a very minimal government, a minarchy.

        In fact, technically, it was a condominium, with joint sovereignty:

        These situations are rare, and usually only apply to very small regions; their sovereignty only lasted until one power decided to end it.

        As for the ‘Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?’ attempt to answer objections, the fact remains, in Somalia, the warlords did take over, and while a new de facto state, Somaliland, has arisen, the rest of the former state is still ruled by warlords. Somalia demonstrates what happens when you have a power vacuum. The same is true with Afghanistan: absent a strong central government, they’ve always been ruled by warlords.

        Nature abhors a vacuum; and power flows from the barrel of a gun.

        Therefore, whoever has or gets the guns, will rule at least some portion of a stateless land, while other parts may end up ruled by other warlords, unless a central state is resurrected, as has happened with Somaliland. Murphy’s objection that the particular case of Somalia doesn’t help either side is specious: there, we have a concrete example of what DID happen when the government collapsed and no other one directly took its place.

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