U.K. to throw out laws relating to the establishment of railways in India.
A rich source material on the origins of Indian railways will be lost to historians for ever as the British government is set to scrap a large chunk of the colonial legislation relating to the construction and maintenance of the vast railways network across the subcontinent.
The move is part of a massive “spring cleaning” to get rid of more than 800 “obsolete” laws cluttering up the statute book. Some go back to the 14th century.
In a report, the U.K. Law Commission on Wednesday said it had identified as many as 38 Acts dating back to 1849 and 1942 and concerning the various railway companies that operated in colonial India and “in the wider East Indies”.
“The Acts span nearly a century of railway enterprise, but all are now obsolete. They centred on the individual railway companies which originated in England, and on the projects they were created to deliver within the Indian sub-continent,” it said.
Obsolete or not, they provide a rare glimpse into the origins of the Indian railway system, arguably one of the few beneficial legacies of the Raj. The first regular train service between what was then Bombay and Thane was established by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company in 1854 under an Act passed in 1849 Act. It incorporated the company and gave it power to enter into contracts with the East India Company.
This Act is now on the chopping block as is a 1942 legislation enabling liquidation of the Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway Company after its operation had been sold to the government. Other provisions proposed to be repealed include the Assam Railways and Trading Company's Act, 1897; Oude Railway Act, 1858; Scinde Railway Act, 1857; and the Great Southern of India Railway Act, 1858.
The Commission said: “Today they have no practical use.”
A bill — the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill — expected to be introduced in Parliament this summer, is the largest the Law Commissions have ever produced. Sir James Munby, chairman of the Law Commission for England and Wales, said the idea was to get rid of “statutory dead wood” and help “simplify and modernise our law, making it more intelligible”.
“We are committed to ridding the statute book of meaningless provisions from days gone by and making sure our laws are relevant to the modern world,” he said.
John Saunders, head of the Law Commission's statute law repeals team, said that while Parliament was “brilliant at making the laws, it is not quite so good at getting rid of them”.
“It's a sort of spring cleaning task we do every four years,” he said.