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In the 66 years since the Indian Constitution was adopted on this day in 1949, corruption and the lack of proper implementation of law and order has tarnished its very essence.

Average Indian citizens are not well informed about the laws listed in the world’s longest constitution, and as such, we continue to hesitate when faced with a situation which sets off our alarm bells.

Given below are the basic laws and rights which every Indian must be made aware of:


ARRESTS

  1. Ignorance of the law won’t stop one from being arrested.
  2. A person must always be informed the grounds on which he is being detained or arrested prior the arrest being made, and provision should be made for the person to get a lawyer for defense.
  3. The 1861 Police Act states that a police officer is always on duty, whether he is in uniform or not.
  4. No arrested person can be detained beyond 24 hours, and has to be brought in front of a judge or magistrate within that time.
  5. A policeman who fails to note your complaint can receive imprisonment of six months to two years.
  6. Proper identification must be visible on a policeman carrying out arrests or interrogation.
  7. Only female police officers are allowed to escort women to the police station. No male police officer can touch a woman or arrest her from 6pm-6am, except in case of serious crimes where a magistrate’s written permit would be required.
  8. According to the Income-tax Act, 1961, the Tax Recovery Officer has the right to arrest you in case you violate any tax regulation. He also decides when you are to be released.

VEHICLES

  1. Under Section 121 of the Motor Vehicles Act, it is mandatory for a driver to signal his/her intention before stopping or turning. Even though this law is barely implemented, one can very well be punished for its breach.
  2. A policeman in uniform can arrest you without a warrant if he feels you are indulging in drunk driving or are driving in a dangerous manner.
  3. If you have been fined on the road once, the challan slip will let you escape any other heavier road fines for the day.
  4. Vehicles which do not have a motor do not fall under the umbrella of the Motor Vehicles Act.
  5. During elections, political parties are allowed to ask for your vehicle for campaigning purposes after agreeing on a settlement.

MARRIAGE AND RELATED ISSUES

  1. Live-in relationships are not illegal in India. Women who are living-in are even protected under the Domestic Violence Act, and children born of the union also have inheritance rights. Read here for more details on the laws regarding live-in relationships.
  2. If either of the partners refuses sex after marriage, it constitutes as ‘mental cruelty’ and is seen as one of the grounds for divorce.
  3. Under Section 497 of the IPC, adultery is illegal. A man having sex with a married woman can receive 5 years of imprisonment. However, a married man having sex with an unmarried woman is not considered a crime.
  4. Illegitimate children inherit the father’s property and can claim maintenance.
  5. Whatever gifts– constituting money or jewellery– that a bride receives in marriage, from her own parents or those of the groom’s, becomes her property by law.
  6. Consensual premarital sex is not illegal if the girl is more than 16 years old.
  7. In case of marriages under the Muslim law, the man would be legally allowed to keep 4 wives. The woman can be divorced by saying the word ‘Talaq’ thrice. Moreover, women have no maintenance rights from their husbands after divorce.

ADOPTION

  1. According to the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956 you cannot adopt a son or a daughter if you already have a child of the same sex(whether adopted or biological).
  2. The parent and the adopted child must have a minimum age gap of 21 years.
  3. The child to be adopted must be younger than 14 years.
  4. The minimum age of either parent has to be more than 25 years and their cumulative age cannot be more than 110 years.
  5. A single male cannot adopt a girl child.


PROPERTY

  1. According to the Hindu Succession Act, if a Hindu man dies without having made a will, his property will pass on in equal proportions to his mother, wife, and children.
  2. After the 2005 Amendment of the Hindu Succession Act, women have equal rights to ancestral property.
  3. A person can give away his self-acquired property to even a stranger, but only through a will. However, he has no hold over his ancestral property, though he can give away his own share in the property, if he so wishes.

PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION (PDA)

Police harassment in cases of PDA is very common as the law states that obscenity in public places is punishable by a three-month jail time, even though what constitutes this ‘obscenity’ hasn’t been clearly demarcated.

PORNOGRAPHY

Possessing pornographic material or watching porn is not illegal in India. However, circulating it in any manner—selling, distributing, letting for hire, exhibiting publicly—is punishable.

BRIBES AND GIFTS

Bribes are often cleverly disguised as ‘gifts’. If discovered, both the giver and taker of the bribe could serve 6-7 years of jail time. Read about the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010 here.

ALCOHOL

  1. If you refuse to give a breath test when asked by a policeman, you can be arrested without a warrant on suspicions of being inebriated, unless you are hospitalized.
  2. Different states in India have different legal drinking ages. Read here for details.

CRIMINAL OFFENSES

The Criminal Law Act underwent significant changes in 2013 and each crime was defined under separate sections. Acid attack or its attempt, sexual harassment, voyeurism, intention to disrobe a woman, sexual harassment and stalking can all incur jail terms. Read here for details.

WOMEN

The Delhi police has issued guidelines which provide women the opportunity to lodge complaints via email or even post if they don’t want to go to the police station.

LIMITATION ACT

According to the Limitation Act, If a person contracted to pay you hasn’t done so, you need to file a report within 3 years, after which your claim will be dismissed.

CHEQUE BOUNCE

If you have received payment via a cheque, which later bounces, you should immediately contact a lawyer and give a legal notice to the person who is supposed to pay you. If you do not receive payment within 15 days of the legal notice, you can file criminal charges against the person and he might go to jail for it.

ARBITRATION

The arbitration clause in any agreement provides the parties with the option of appointing an independent arbitrator to solve any disputes, without having to go to the court. However, this clause closes the court doors for good, and with it, also makes sure that you won’t be able to avail the three-tier appeal process. Appeal can be made in arbitration in very few cases, and an arbitral decision is binding on the parties, just like a court decision.


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