Letters: Concrete change

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 02, 2010 19:30 hrs

MJ Antony’s suggestion for periodical review of old laws ("Vehicle insurance barriers", January 20) for removal of deficiencies requires the government’s attention sooner rather than later.

During the British rule, both the judiciary and the executive used to work in coordination with each other. Whenever the high courts or the Supreme Court found a lacuna in a statute, a direction used to be given to the Registrar General that it be referred to the department concerned along with a copy of the judgment. However, this changed after Independence. Now there is no mechanism by which the executive can take note of such judgments.

Old laws are reviewed not to remove deficiencies, but to make a point that the old law is being replaced. The changes that are made serve the department’s own purpose. For example, when the Indian Railways Act was amended in 1961 to create "common carriers liability", the ministry (Railway Board) drafted the amendment so as not to create the "common carriers liability" but to incorporate provisions that further restricted the railways’ responsibility for loss, damage or destruction of the consignment during carriage. Was it not desirable to submit the draft to the Law Commission to check that the object of amendment as pronounced in Parliament was fulfilled?

The Companies Act, 1956 has been amended time and again, and four Companies Bills have been presented before Parliament since 1990. None of the amendments or the Bills has made an attempt to remove the deficiencies — they only accommodate the changes proposed by the CII, Ficci or Assocham.

Recently, there has been a conflict of opinion on whether the directors are vicariously liable for acts of omission or commission of the company or the company is vicariously liable for the acts or omissions on the part of the directors. Section 292 defines the powers, but not the responsibility of the directors on the Board which is a "collectivity " under Section 252 of the Act.

When a review is done of a law by a department and changes are made, the department must make a detailed note on the changes and refer the Bill for consideration of the Law Commission. Review by the department itself serves little purpose

HC Johari, on email

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