What is the Law Commission of India? What is its importance?
Introduction The Law Commission of India is an executive which is neither statutory nor a constitutional body entrusted with the responsibility to bring legal reforms in the country and suggest recommendations accordingly. Constitution of the Law Commission of India (Pre-Independence Era) The Law Commission is established by the government for a fixed tenure and acts as an advisory… Read More »
The Law Commission of India is an executive which is neither statutory nor a constitutional body entrusted with the responsibility to bring legal reforms in the country and suggest recommendations accordingly.
Constitution of the Law Commission of India (Pre-Independence Era)
The Law Commission is established by the government for a fixed tenure and acts as an advisory body to the Law Ministry. It is composed of legal experts headed by a retired judge, who research and advise the Government of India on legal reform. It works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice.
The first Law Commission of India was established during the colonial period by the East India Company under the Charter Act of 1833 and was presided by Lord Macaulay. The idea of the Law Commission emerged from the fact that the East India Company Officials came from a very different setting and in India being so diverse was getting difficult to administer. In order to improve the law-and-order situation and also bring in legal uniformity in 1833 the first law commission as stated above was established under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay.
- The First Law Commission was established in 1834 has suggested various enactments which were passed and enacted and some of them are still in force in India like The Indian Penal Code submitted in 1837 but enacted in 1860.
- The Second Law Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir John Romilly was constituted in 1835 which gave recommendations for the formulation of the Code of Civil Procedure and the Law of Limitation and the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- The Third Law Commission was again constituted under the Chairmanship of Sir John Romilly that deliberated on a Code for Succession and Inheritance for Indians other than Hindus and Muslims, Draft Contract Act was prepared, Draft of Negotiable Instruments Law, Draft of the Law of Evidence, Revision of Criminal Procedure Code, Draft Transfer of Property Law and a Draft Code on Insurance.
- The last and The Fourth Pre-Independence Law Commission under the Chairmanship of Dr. Whitley Strokes worked on the Code of Negotiable Instruments, Code on Trusts Law, Code on Transfer of Property and Easements, Revised Code of Criminal Procedure, Revised Code of Civil Procedure was put to deliberation.
Law Commission of India Post-Independence
After independence, the Constitution of India with its Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy gave a new direction to law reform geared to the needs of democratic legal order in a plural society. Though the Constitution stipulated the continuation of pre-Constitution Laws (Article 372) till they are amended or repealed, there had been demands in Parliament and outside for establishing a Central Law Commission to recommend revision and updating of the inherited laws to serve the changing needs of the country.
The tradition of Law Commissions was continued after independence where, the first Law Commission in India was formed in 1955 for a three-year term with its Chairman being the First Attorney General of India, M.C. Setalvad.
The First Law Commission submitted its report on the 16th September 1958 and had taken into account some of the issues of primary legal importance where changes were suggested in the statutes enacted by the British to suit the Indian requirements and also suggested important reforms in the judicial administration. Since then 21 Law Commissions have been constituted.
The Reports of the Law Commission are considered by the Ministry of Law in consultation with the concerned administrative Ministries and are submitted to Parliament from time to time. They are cited in Courts, in academic and public discourses and are acted upon by concerned Government Departments depending on the Government’s recommendations.
The Law Commission has been anxious to ensure that the widest section of people is consulted in formulating proposals for law reforms. In this process, partnerships are established with professional bodies and academic institutions. Seminars and workshops are organized in different parts of the country to elicit critical opinions on proposed strategies for reform. It is obvious that the success of the Commission’s work in law reforms is dependent upon its capacity to assemble the widest possible inputs from the public and concerned interest groups.
The Commission is constantly on the lookout for strategies to accomplish this goal within the limited resources available to it. In this regard, the media plays an important role which the Commission proposes to tap more frequently than before. The Commission welcomes suggestions from any person, institution, or organization on the issues under consideration of the Commission, which may be sent to the Member-Secretary.
Recommendations of the Law Commission of India
The Law Commission of India either on the order of the Government of India or suo moto researches on any law for reforms and enactment of legislation as suited to the general interest of the people of India. It has played a significant role in creating a legal synthesis and has recommended numerous changes like the introduction of fast track courts, expansion of commercial courts, anti-defection laws, recommendations on matters considering family law, and other profound recommendations on civil, criminal, and constitutional law.
The 14th report, the 27th report, the 58th report, and the 121st report of the Law Commission of India have highlighted the delay in the justice dispensation mechanism and have recommended there has to be a time limit in disposing of criminal and civil matters. The need to increase judicial officers was highlighted and the importance of Alternate Dispute Resolution mechanisms was brought into the light.
The 141st and 142nd reports of the Law Commission of India 1991 stressed on to provide a speedy, cost-effective justice delivery in cases of criminal matters and recommended various measures with regards to the same. Some of the recent important reports submitted by the law commission on various issues are as follows
- Report No. 277 – Wrongful Prosecution (Miscarriage of Justice)
- Report No. 274 – Review of Contempt of Courts Act, 1971
- Report No. 273 – Implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture
- Report No. 270 – Compulsory Registration of Marriages
- Report No. 271 – Human DNA Profiling
Current Situation with regards to the Constitution of 22nd Law Commission of India
The Union of India is considering the appointment of Chairperson of 22nd Law Commission of India. There have been pleas in the Supreme Court with regards to making Law Commission a statutory body, but no steps have been taken so far in this regard. The affidavit has been filed in a writ petition filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution seeking directions to the Centre to appoint the Chairperson and Members of the Law Commission of India and make it a statutory body. Supreme Court had issued a notice in the matter on 25th January 2021.
The tenure of the 21st Law Commission ended on 31st August 2018 but the Centre neither extended the tenure of its Chairperson and Members nor did it notify regarding the constitution of the 22nd Law Commission. The approval with regards to the constitution of the 22nd Law Commission was done by the Central Government on 19th February 2020 but to date, no appointments have been made.
The Law Commission recommendations are of enormous benefit as it considers and conveys to the Central Government, the Supreme Court, and the High Courts its views on various subjects relating to law and judicial administration and takes all the measures as deemed necessary to harness law and legal process and has done tasks like a revision of Central Acts of general importance so as to amplify them and remove anomalies, ambiguities, and inequities.
The Law Commission has been able to make an important contribution towards the progressive development and codification of the Law of the country and it has so far submitted 277 reports.
The recommendations of the Law Commission though not binding on the government have in many circumstances been accepted and have brought in a change of view as to the legal position with regards to various laws where change was deemed necessary. Law Commission has been an important body and being currently defunct is not being able to serve its purpose and therefore the constitution of the 22nd Law Commission as stipulated must be brought into practice.
 “Early beginnings”. lawcommissionofindia.nic.in. Retrieved 5 June 2008.
 Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India & Ors (Writ Petition (Civil) No(s). 1477/2020)