Any citizen, belonging to any country in the world has a set of obligations towards their country as does the country towards their citizens. Having a basic knowledge and understanding of the laws of their respective country naturally secures and empowers citizens while helping in a smoother development of the country.
The Indian Constitution as well as the plethora of laws passed in the country, provides various rights and duties to its citizens. However, many remain unaware of them even after 74 years of Independence; even when some of the laws have been in existence since the British Rule!
This article will cover some of the MUST KNOW laws in India!
- Drinking & Driving:
The Government, through the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways brought into force the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988. It was passed with a view to consolidate and amend vehicle laws.
- In the act, Sec.185 states that if a person while driving (or trying to drive) has a Blood-alcohol level over 30 mg. per 100 ml. of blood; or is under the influence of any such drug that would jeopardize their control over the vehicle, would be punished under the act. Punishment includes imprisonment up to 6 months or fine of ₹ 2,000 (or both) for first occurrence. Further, if a person is caught for the same offence within 3 years of the first, the term of imprisonment goes up to 2 years or a fine of ₹ 3,000 (or both.)
- Further, the same Act under Sec.202 empowers a police officer to arrest without a warrant such a person as mentioned above. They are to also administer a medical examination within two hours of such arrest and if the arrested individual fails such an exam, they are to be released immediately.
- While on the topic of drinking, it would also be important to note that drinking age in India is actually not 21 all over the country. Alcohol is a subject matter that comes under the State list, meaning that any revenue generated from its sale will go to the state. Thus, States get to decide the legal drinking age and laws related to it. For example, the legal age in most States is 21, but in Delhi and Maharashtra it is 25, while Goa is at 18. In fact, Maharashtra has two different drinking ages, specified by soft and hard liquor. Thus, there at 21 one can drink beer and wine, but must be 25 for any hard liquor.
Whiskey on the rocks may not be the right option for your 21st Birthday.
- Two wheelers:
India ranks in one of the top 10 countries in motorbike usage. Naturally there are thus laws in its regard. The same are talked about in the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
- Helmet Mandate:
If you are from Pune or Maharashtra, you may be quite aware of how many times the city had to impose the helmet mandate. Punekars, however, didn’t seem to care much.
The act however, strictly mentions the use of helmets while driving a two-wheeler in Sec.129. It is not just the driver, but also the rider who shall wear a protective headgear while using a motorcycle.
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“Tripsy” is a word commonly used by many people, especially youngsters. It basically means riding in a group of three on a motorcycle. Sec.128 mandates that only two persons must, at one time, be riding on a motorcycle. However, this is in exception to side-cars attached to the vehicle.
- According to the Motor Vehicle (Amendment) Bill, 2016, if you are fined for any traffic violations then for the same reasons you can be fined again on the same day.
- Laws for/ regarding women:
Article 15 (3) of the Indian Constitution empowers the State to make laws for women and children. This is for enabling women empowerment and safety at the same time.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 gives some benefits to women.
Firstly, under Sec.46 of the Code, no woman can be arrested from 6:00pm to 6:00am. However, if in case there is a prior permission from a Magistrate, such arrest can be done; but only by a female officer.
- According to the same code, only female police officers may arrest women and bring them to the police stations. Male police officers do not have the authority to arrest women. Only in cases where a crime is grave/ serious in nature, a male officer can make the arrest post a written order of the magistrate.
- In the Maternity Benefits Act 1961, a pregnant woman cannot be fired by the company. In case that a pregnant woman is terminated from employment on the sole cause of pregnancy, the person behind such termination can be punished up to 3 years in jail.
That same Act provides also for a minimum of 26 weeks paid maternity leave for Women.
- Family & Relationships
In India, functions specific to family such as marriage, divorce, property, adoption etc. are largely dealt through personal laws. Even then, there are some laws that need to be remembered by all.
- Through the to the Hindu Marriage Act, Parsi Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, and Indian Divorce Act, any spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of adultery, domestic violence, impotence, desertion, conversion of religion, mental abnormality, incurable disease, venereal disease or their spouse being missing for 7 years. Further, these rights are given to Muslim women under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, which was also known as the Triple Talaq Act. Also, women are given special empowerment in divorce if their husband is guilty of rape, sodomy, or bestiality.
- Further, a couple cannot petition for a divorce before completing a year of marriage.
- Live-In relationships are not illegal in India. Judicial precedents have provided a recognition to such relationships and even provide protection to victims in such situations by extending the Domestic Violence Act to them. This was held under the case of Indra Sarma V. V.K.V. Sarma.
- Public Display of Affection (PDA) is actually a crime under Sec.294 of the IPC. However, it actually states that “obscene acts” in public places is a punishable crime. Here obscene is undefined. Thus, it gets misused by police.
- Police Acts
- According to Sec.166A of the IPC, a police officer cannot refuse to register a FIR under any circumstance. An officer’s refusal to do so is a punishable offence of 6 months to 1 year imprisonment.
- The Police Act, 1861 was passed with intent to re-organize the police and to make it a more efficient instrument for the prevention and detection of crime. Under it, a police officer is never off-duty; irrespective of whether in uniform. If anyone seeks the help of a police officer, then they cannot refuse by saying they are not on duty.
- Zero FIR is an FIR that can be lodged in case of a cognizable offence in any police station regardless of jurisdiction of the crime. Generally, an FIR is to be registered in the area of the crime or resident of the victim. However, this right of Zero FIR allows one to register the FIR in any police station. A Police Officer cannot deny one this right; and is that is done, the officer can face incarceration under the Indian Penal Code.
- The Constitution of India under Art.22 provides for preventative detention. Any person arrested cannot be detained in custody without being informed of the grounds for such arrest. Further, it is their right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of their choice.
- Labour/ Employment:
- The Payment of Wages Act, 1936, states that salary must be paid to the employees by the 7th each month.
- Under the Constitution, Art.39 (d) guarantees for equal pay to both men and women for equal work done by them. Thus, the gender pay gap is largely unconstitutional.
- The Government has also passed the Provident Fund Act and Employee Insurance Act which provides for the institution of provident funds, pension and benefits to employees and their families by way of insurance.
- The Income-tax Act, 1961, in matters of tax violation the tax collection officer has the authority to arrest the violator but before arresting he needs to send a notice. Only the tax commissioner decides how long anyone stays in custody.
- According to Limitation Act, 1963, if your office doesn’t pay you a salary then you can file a report against it within 3 years. But if you file the report after three years, then it won’t be of any use.
- Minimum Wages Act also fixes the minimum rates of wages in certain employments. It also States to decide minimum wages for employees in the State.
- As per the Indian Series Act 1887, any kind of hotel/ restaurant of any kind; no matter how big or small cannot refuse any individual from using their washroom or drink their water, even if such person has not opted for any other service from such hotel/ restaurant.
- In cases where a gas cylinder blasts while cooking, then the aggrieved party may sue the gas company for an amount as high as 40Lakhs.
- Due to the MRP rate, a shopkeeper cannot charge the consumer a price more than the printed price stated on the product. Thus, sellers (like at restaurants) cannot charge more for a bottle of beverage than what is stated on its label. However, a consumer has the right to bargain.
- Every person is entitled to get free legal aid from the State in case they cannot afford a lawyer. The State must provide for such legal assistance.
- In the Information Technology Act, 2000, recordings such as voice messages, videos, etc. can be used as permissible evidence in the court.
Knowing these rights and laws can help an individual in their day-to-day lives on various instances. It helps to know what your rights and duties are and where you can exercise them.
By Sai Kulkarni- Intern