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Why and How Indian Law Has Changed
from the Past

Just like many other democracies, Indian's constitution has had about 100 amendments since its adoption on 26th January 1950.
Here are some of the most notable changes.

1. Zamindari Abolition Acts – Land Rights

The Constituition of India

Article 19 and 31 of the constitution enshrined the right to property as a fundamental right. However, the courts challenged the Zamindari Abolition Acts passed by the provinces.

The rights of Zamindars were upheld by the Supreme Court, since the acts passed by the provinces were not constitutionally valid.

Following this, the parliament passed amendments in 1951 and 1955 to secure constitutional validity of the Zamindari Abolition Acts. Thereafter, many provinces passed the act, leading to conferment of land rights and acquisition of ownership rights to 62 lakh acres of cultivated land by approximately 30 lakh tenants and share-croppers.

2. Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Treaty

On 1st August 2015, India and Bangladesh signed the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) Treaty. This led to two key occurrences:

  • Exchange of certain enclave territories with Bangladesh

  • Conferment of citizenship rights to residents of those enclaves

The LBA was an attempt by the two countries to resolve such issues as border security, illegal migration, land and water.

3. Special Provisions to Curb Inequality

Specific sections of the constitution are focused on creating equal opportunity for all regardless of wealth, caste, gender or status.

Caste discrimination, in particular, was made illegal in Indian Law. Also, a special provision was added on 18th June 1951 to advance socially and educationally backward classes.

Unfortunately, low castes (Dalits) continue to find it difficult to get help from government bureaucrats, since they lack money to bribe officials or social influence. They typically live in separate sections of villages and towns, lacking many amenities.

4. Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act (2005)

Despite all its merits, the constitution lacked adequate provisions to protect women in the domestic sphere, especially regarding dowry deaths and related violence.

Fortunately, after multiple drafts, successful lobbying by legal and women’s rights groups led to the passing of the Protection of Women Against Domestic Violence Act (2005) in October 2006.

The act not only protects women, but also safeguards the victims’ defenders or dependants. And it isn’t just limited to physical violence, since it also safeguards against non-physical abuse like cutting off access to finances and assets.

5. Criminal Law – Indian Penal Code

Supreme Court of India

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) was certainly ahead of its time, when enacted in 1861.

Unfortunately, this is one critical part of the constitutions that has hardly changed and been unable to keep pace since then.

Two issues with this law include:

  • - Despite the fact that the English law wasn’t the only basis for the IPC (many definitions and distinctions in the IPC aren’t known to English law), Indian courts frequently consult English decisions to construe sections of the IPC.

  • The archaic sedition law, which shouldn’t exist in democratic India, is a key issue of debate. Even former President Pranab Mukherjee stated that the IPC requires revision to meet the needs of the 21st century.

Considering the many other changes to the constitution, it would certainly be in order to also update the IPC, and any other critical sections.