Tuesday, Aug 16, 2022

What's Wrong With Our Rights

Citizens fighting for their rights keep alive the spirit of the Constitution

What's Wrong With Our Rights Photograph by AP

Archaic Laws

  • Section 497, IPC Only men are punished for sexual ­relations with a married woman
  • Indian Prisons Act Male prisoners can be whipped on their buttocks up to 30 times as ­punishment for offences in prisons
  • East Punjab Agricultural Pests, Diseases and Noxious Weeds Act 1949 Drumbeats can be used to ­summon men to deal with locusts and other ­agricultural pest; ignoring it leads to 10 days in prison
  • Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 India stopped sending ­telegrams five years ago, yet the law on ­telegraphs exists, ­outlawing ­possession of ­telegraph wires
  • Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878 If you find buried treasure worth more than Rs 10, hand it over to the Queen of England or else you can be sentenced to a year in prison
  • Indian Post Office Act, 1898 You can send ‘documents’ by ­private courier, but only India Post can deliver letters
  • Indian Aircraft Act, 1934 Flying kites and balloons is exe­mpted under the Aircraft Rules, otherwise one may need a permit since these are defined as ‘aircraft’
  • Section 160 of the Representation of People Act, 1951 Not only can your car get requisitioned for poll duty, if you drive it yourself, you will get less than Rs 50 as ­refreshment allowance for a day


It’s 2018—more than 200 years since the first formal Constitution in the world recognising human rights was adopted, and 2,500 years since a king, Cyrus II, for the first time in recorded history freed slaves and gave his people the freedom to choose their religion. Back home, India celebrated its 71st Independence Day a few days ago, reaffirming its faith in everything enshrined in the Constitution, which guarantees certain basic rights to all its citizens. And yet, men continue to die here in pools of human excreta and sludge, which they have to clean manually for the convenience of others.