Law Commission of India
Law Commission of India is neither a constitutional body nor a statutory body. It is truly an ad hoc and advisory body whose work is to do research and make recommendations for law reforms such as amendments and updations of prevalent and inherited laws. None of these recommendations is binding upon the Government.
How Law Commission is established?
Law Commission of is established by an order of central government. Who will head the law commission is completely at the discretion of the Government. However, it is a convention that a retired judge of Supreme Court heads India’s Law Commission. Further, the States also can constitute their own law commissions.
Who is composition of Law Commission?
The Commission is headed by a full-time Chairperson. It membership primarily comprises legal experts, who are entrusted a mandate by the Government. For example, the 21st Law commission would be comprised of:
- a full-time Chairperson.
- four full-time Members (including a Member-Secretary).
- Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs as ex offcio Member.
- Secretary, Legislative Department as ex offcio Member.
- not more than five part-time Members.
The Commission is established for a fixed tenure (generally three years) and works as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice. Before finalising its recommendations, the Commission needs to consult the law ministry. Law Commission works in close co-ordination and under the general instruction of Ministry of Law and Justice. It generally acts as the initiation point for law reform in the country. Internally, the Law Commission works in a research-oriented manner.
What is History of Law Commission of India?
India’s first Law Commission was established in 1834 via Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay. This law commission had recommended codification of the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and a few other matters.
- After that, three more law commissions were established in British Era. The Indian Code of Civil Procedure, the Indian Contract Act, the Indian Evidence Act, the Transfer of Property Act. etc. are products of the works of Law Commissions of British Era.
- The chairman of second (1853) and third (1861) law commissions of British era was Sir John Romilly, while that of fourth (1879) was Dr. Whitley Stokes.
The first Law Commission of independent India was established in 1955 for a three year term. The Chairman of this Commission was Mr. M. C. Setalvad, who was also the First Attorney General of India. The term of this Commission was established as three years (which by convention has been followed till date).
Since then 21 more Commissions have been established. The Nineteenth Law Commission (2009-2012) was headed by justice P.Venkatarama Reddy. The 20th Law Commission was established in 2013 under the Chairmanship of Justice D.K Jain. Its tenure was fixed till 2015. The present 21st Law Commission was established in 2015, and has tenure till 2018. It is headed by Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan.
Importance of Law Commission
Although Law Commission has not been provided by the Constitution, yet it is inspired by various parts of Constitution such as Fundamental Rights and DPSP particularly article 39A, which says that State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice.
Further, one of the mandates of the Constitution was the continuation of pre-Constitution Laws (Article 372) till they are amended or repealed. This mandate necessitated the need of a Central Law Commission which could recommend repeal, revision and updating of the inherited laws to serve the changing needs of the country. The various Law Commissions have been able to make important contribution towards the progressive development and codification of laws of the country. Law Commissions have so far submitted 262 reports.
Law Commission of India is an advisory body but has been a key instrumentality in the process of law reform in India. It has sometimes has been critical of the government policies and has been recognized by the Supreme Court of India and also the academia as pioneering and prospective. In a number of decisions the Supreme Court has referred to the work done by the Law Commission and followed its recommendations.