LAW MANTRA     (Think Beyond Others)

‘Junk outdated laws like ban on porn, homosexuality’

If BJD member Tathagata Satpathy had his way homosexuality and cannabis use would be legal, porn ban would be lifted and the uniform civil code would be applicable across the country. In a passionate argument on revoking “socially evil and outdated laws” Satpathy recommended that the country must debate the Uniform Civil Code, stop moral policing of its people and change laws that make homosexual behavior illegal. He was speaking on the discussion for Repealing and Amending (fourth) Bill.

The bill, that seeks to repeal 295 laws, was passed by Lok Sabha on Thursday. The bill is expected to update the statute books by repealing obsolete and redundant laws. Union law minister Sadanand Gowda however steered clear of these contentious issues only adding that more archaic laws would be repealed. He also said that the government was working to ensure that all future Appropriation Acts have an automatic repeal clause. Like ‘sunset clause’, automatic repeal would be brought in at the time of bringing such Acts, the law minister said. Centre proposes to repeal 1,863 redundant acts.

Describing section 377 as an “archaic” law, Satpathy said, “Having a second look at the law that relates to homosexuality would be a step forward towards creating a modern society in India which this government has been professing that it has been trying to do.”

Expressing concern over the recent attempts by government to play “net nanny” the parliamentarian also trained his eyes on the information technology act. “We recently saw how the government banned certain sites and then again rescinded its orders, for reasons unknown. Today, it could be a bad site, it could be a pornographic site which we all support should not be watched by people. But when you start doing something like that, then there is no end to the attitude that I will only ban this much and no more. Once you allow the bureaucracy…there is no end to moral policing..,” Satpathy said.

The Dhenkanal MP asked union law minister Sadanand Gowda to initiate a debate on the issue of Uniform Civil Code reasoning that if society was to combat “evil organizations” like the ISIS, it would have to be more “alert and more modern” and encompass every citizen with affection. “The moment you start differentiating, the moment you start dividing society, then you fall prey to the evil organizations like ISIS…We have based our laws on old religious scriptures whereas the world is moving way beyond religious scriptures, way beyond thoughts which are akin maybe in some ways to the thoughts that are being propagated by organizations like ISIS.”

He also raised the question of how “bhang” (cannabis) use has been made illegal under the NDPS act. “These old and draconian laws have harmed many people in this country…For example in my state bhang is a derivative of a plant called indica sativa. It is something taken in religious festivals. But we have the law that NDPS act which makes it illegal,” Satpathy said. Comparing the use of intoxicants like alcohol, Satpathy said that women in several Odisha villages were opposed to alcohol consumption but that was not banned. “But we come down heavily on the intoxicants of these poorer people, the field workers, and the rickshaw pullers through the NDPS act. So that is also an act that needs to be re-looked at.”

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