India to scrap ‘archaic’ British colonial laws

    Many Raj era laws were repealed soon after India became independent in 1947 Photo: Alamy

    British Raj-era laws to persecute ‘uncivilised’ tribes, sack knock-kneed motor inspectors and legalise marriages by a missionary priest are among hundreds of archaic acts to be scrapped by the Indian government

    The Indian government is compiling a list of hundreds of archaic colonial era laws to scrap as part of its drive to modernise the country.

    Officials are scrutinising more than a thousand laws, many of them which date back more than 150 years and were passed by the British colonial government to legalise discrimination against groups which challenged its rule or prejudices.

    Many Raj era laws were repealed soon after India became independent in 1947 – including the notorious Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 which meant millions of Indians were born criminals by law because of their tribal origin. The act, which listed more than 60 tribal groups as ‘habitual criminals’ and required their adult males to register with the police, was scrapped in 1952.

    But despite these reforms hundreds of laws remain on India’s statute books, including the 1861 ban on homosexuality as an ‘unnatural offence’ along with a number of laws passed to check ‘subversive’ acts against colonial rule.

    Some now appear farcical. The Police Act of 1861 requires all officers to doff their caps in the presence of royalty despite the fact that India has not had an imperial monarch since independence and Indira Gandhi stripped its own royal families of all privileges in 1972.