Published on: October 22, 2023

Special and Local Laws

Special and Local Laws

Why in news? Special and Local Laws are kept  away from the ongoing reform process


  • SLLs have immense quantitative and qualitative relevance in the Indian criminal justice system.

What are Special and Local Laws?

  • Cognizable crimes are categorized either under the ‘Indian Penal Code (IPC)’ or under the ‘Special and Local Laws (SLL)’.
  • The Special and Local Laws identify criminal activities that the state government frames for specific issues.
  • These laws are different from general or public laws, which apply uniformly across the entire jurisdiction and are typically part of a state or country’s statutory or codified law.
  • For instance, the law prohibiting the sale of lottery sales is a Special Act pertinent to the state of Tamil Nadu.

Present scenario of Special and Local Laws

  • Nearly 39.9% of all cognisable offences registered in 2021 were under SLLs.
  • As per the Crime in India Statistics of 2021, of the total of nearly 61 lakh cognisable offences registered, 24.3 lakh offences were registered under SLLs alone.

Need for reform of SSL

  • Vague definitions: SLLs such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA) suffer from glaringly deficient, ambiguous and vague definitions of offences and terms such as ‘terrorist act’, ‘unlawful activity’, ‘organised crime’, ‘organised crime syndicate’ etc.
  • Complexity and Fragmentation: Special and Local Laws in India can be highly complex and fragmented, with different laws applying to different regions or communities. This complexity can lead to confusion and difficulties in enforcing and understanding these laws
  • Outdated Provisions: Between the enactment of the IPC in 1860 and today, there has been a major shift in the canvas of criminal laws. The increasing enactments and application of SLLs represents an understanding of criminal laws which is out of sync with the original project of codification.
  • Inconsistencies: It is through SLLs that universally accepted due process values are increasingly being diluted. Increased powers of search and seizure under Section 43A of the UAPA and the admissibility of confessions recorded by police officers under Section 18 of the MCOCA are prime examples.
  • Social Change: The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 is increasingly being criticised for its applicability to consensual sexual activities between minors. Concerns have also been raised regarding criminalisation of such conduct through SLLs which would otherwise fall squarely within the domain of civil wrongs or at best, regulatory wrongs.
  • Bail Issues: Section 43(D)(5) of the UAPA, Section 37 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002 make the grant of bail a near impossibility.

Challenges in the implementation of these laws

  • Lack of Awareness: Rural masses rural areas may not be aware of the existence of special and local laws. This lack of awareness can lead to non-compliance and ineffective implementation.
  • Language and Cultural Diversity: India is a linguistically and culturally diverse country. Special and local laws need to be translated and adapted to different languages and cultural contexts, making it challenging to ensure uniform implementation across the country.
  • Enforcement and Compliance: Enforcing such law especially in regions with limited law enforcement resources and infrastructure is difficult. Corruption in the administration will hinder the its effective implementation of special and local laws
  • Delayed Judicial Processes: Delayed justice can lead to frustration and results in loss of faith in the justice system. It will also burden the judicial system with delayed the settlement of cases.

Way forward

  • It should be suitably amended in situations requiring the creation of new offences, clarification of existing offences, and removal of inconsistencies.
  • SLLs which criminalise/seek to criminalise a conduct should find a place as separate chapters within the larger structure of the penal code.
  • All SLLs which create a separate procedure for reporting of offences, arrest, investigation, prosecution, trial, evidence and bail must be included either as separate procedures within the CrPC or as exceptions to the general provisions provided therein.


  • The Special and Local Laws (SLLs) have immense quantitative and qualitative relevance in the Indian criminal justice system. Keeping them away from the ongoing reform process, with respect to the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, is a major drawback. Discuss