The danger of disused laws
A few months ago, my daughter’s friend was celebrating her birthday by throwing a lunch at her apartment in Pune. It was in the middle of the afternoon when the police arrived. Apparently, the neighbors had complained about the loud music! These men who call themselves enforcers of the law threatened the youngsters, who ironically were all final year law students. There was alcohol on the premises and the police told them quite gleefully and that this was enough reason to file a charge sheet and put them behind bars. After some heated negotiation, each student coughed up Rs 2000/- so that they did not have to go to jail and get themselves a criminal record. We have stupid laws in India some states which make it mandatory for everyone to have an alcohol permit. Most of us don’t.
That incident was never reported in the media because no police complaint was registered. There are many such incidents. Many of us know someone who has been through a harrowing experience of this kind or we have read about it in the newspapers. I am not talking of drugs or rave parties here, but simple music, dancing and alcohol. An excuse for the police to barge in and get their hafta. The most recent example which came out in the media is the private party at Lonavala. The Lonavala police “raided” the party although all that was happening there was a celebration of a birthday. Sure, the party was noisy, and there was alcohol. But the police knew that the party goers would not possess liquor permits.
Very few individuals actually have such permits, and in fact not everyone knows that they have to have one. This law, made around the time of Independence (the Bombay Prohibition Act) rules that an individual has to have a permit to drink any liquor other than beer. Not just that. A certificate (which will invariably be false) needs to be submitted from a doctor certifying that “he/she requires foreign liquor and/or country liquor for the preservation and maintenance of his/her health.’’ The height of stupidity eh. But it ceases to be a joke when one is threatened with imprisonment up to six months…because that is what drinking without a permit can get you.
This law is such an ass that it’s not surprising that people don’t bother about it. Actually, nor does the government. It’s only the corrupt and greedy police who care about it. It’s one of their extortion tools. Disused laws give the corrupt an easy method of making money because it is unlikely that people know about the existence of such laws.
The truth is that anybody who parties and even those who drink alone at home can become victims of the corrupt police. Someone with a grudge against you has to complain and even if you are drinking a rum at six in the evening the police can come and arrest you.
There is another law which is used to harass and blackmail. The law which forbids unnatural sex, under which all kinds of activities fall, including homosexuality. The punishment is a ridiculous ten years!! That the law is rarely invoked, we know, except when it comes to extorting money from those “caught.” There have been no convictions for being “guilty” of homosexual relations in India, ever. Yet, this disused law is often invoked by those in power to extort money and other favours.
It is a relief that the Delhi High court has declared that homosexual acts are no longer to be considered illegal amongst consenting adults. This is just a small step which right now applies only to Delhi. And is probably the government’s way of getting round religious groups who are opposed to repealing the law which forbids gay sex. Whether it is the Catholics, the Sikhs, the Hindus or the Muslims, conservative religious people from these communities who hold sway over vote banks are opposing it. The government was seriously thinking of repealing the anti-gay law but developed cold feet because of the religious opposition. But the high court has helped the government, although religious groups are going to challenge the ruling in the Supreme court. I don’t think the Supreme court is going to against the Delhi High court judgment. And once the Supreme court gives its stamp of approval, it will pave the way for the government to change the law. Sad news for the corrupt police, no?
Related Reading: Gay parents and heterosexual parents – any difference?
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