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Minor Acts in India every lawyer/ law student must know

The laws play an important role in guiding the behaviour and conduct of the people in a society. As defined by John Austin Law is the command of sovereign backed by sanction. At the outset, every law student/ lawyer is aware of the major Acts of Parliament such as Code of Civil Procedure, Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, etc. which are general in nature, whether substantive or procedural. As a law student/ lawyer, these laws form the foundation of various subject of law i.e. criminal, civil, etc. Minor Acts, on the other hand, are specific acts dealing with specific subject of law.

These 7 Minor Acts should be known by every law student/ lawyer because of their applicability in today's time.
  1. The Advocates Act, 1961

    Commenced on 19th May, 1961, this Act had been enacted to provide for constitution of Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils. It also provides rules of conduct for the legal practitioners. The Act contains a total of 60 sections and Schedule I which deals with the repealed acts.
    Important Sections of this Act:
    1. Section 3 and Section 6: State Bar Council and its functions, respectively
    2. Section 4 and Section 7: Bar Council of India and its functions, respectively
    3. Section 16: Senior and other advocates
    4. Section 24 and Section 24A: Persons who may be admitted as advocates on state roll (eligibility) and disqualification for enrolment, respectively
    5. Section 30: Rights of advocates to practice
    6. Section 35: Punishment of advocates for misconduct
    7. Section 45: Penalty for persons illegally practising in courts and before other authorities (Imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months)
     
  2. The Contempt of Courts Act, 1971

    This Act has been enacted to define and limit the powers of courts in punishing for contempt of courts and to regulate the procedure for the same. Commenced in 1971, this Act repealed the old Act of 1952 (Section 24). This Act contains a total of 24 Sections. This Act deals with both acts of Contempt i.e. Civil contempt and Criminal Contempt. Civil Contempt refers to wilful obedience of an order, decree, or direction of a Court or an undertaking given to the Court. On the other hand Criminal Contempt means publication of any matter via any medium which scandalises or lower the authority of court, prejudices the course of any judicial proceeding or interferes with administration of justice in any manner.

    Important Sections of this Act:
    1. Section 3: Innocent publication and distribution of matter not contempt
    2. Section 4: Fair and accurate report of judicial proceeding not contempt
    3. Section 5: Fair criticism of judicial act not contempt
    4. Section 12: Punishment for Contempt of Court (Simple Imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees or both).
       
  3. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971

    This Act provides for medical termination of pregnancy by registered practitioners. Commenced on 10th August 1971, this Act has been enacted to provide a legal procedure to protect the act of female foeticide, female infanticide and other related acts.

    The Act consists of 8 sections. As per Section 3, Pregnancy can be terminated by Medical practitioner(s) if they are of the opinion drawn in good faith that continuance of pregnancy would affect the physical/mental health of the mother, or pose risk of child being born with deformities. This Section specifically provides that such opinion needs to be given by one medical practitioner if the pregnancy does not exceed 12 weeks and be given by two medical practitioners if the pregnancy exceeds 12 weeks but does not exceed 20 weeks.

    The Section also provides that the pregnancy would only be terminated with the consent of the pregnant woman, and in the case of a minor or lunatic, with the consent of her guardian.

    Other Important Sections of this Act:
    1. Section 4: Place where pregnancy can be terminated.
    2. Section 5: Cases in which Section 3 and 4 would not apply
    3. Section 7: Power of State Government to make regulations. Whoever fails to comply with regulations made under subsection 1 shall be punished with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.
    4. Section 8: Protection of action taken in good faith

      The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Bill, 2020 has recently been passed by the Union Cabinet. This Bill strives to extend the period given in Section 3 from 20 to 24 weeks of gestation. The Bill also provides for extending the period of gestation for special categories of women such as survivors of rape, etc. and further, not disclosing their identities.
       
  4. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961

    Commenced on 20th May, 1961, this Act was enacted to prohibit the giving or taking away of dowry. This Act consists of 10 sections. Section 2 of the Act defines dowry as any property or valuable security given or agreed to be given either directly or indirectly:
    1. by one party to a marriage to the other party to the marriage; or
       
    2. by the parents of either party to a marriage or by any other person, to either party to the marriage or to any other person at or before or any time after the marriage in connection with the marriage of said parties.
      It is pertinent to mention herein that the definition of Dowry does not include dower or mahr in the case of persons to whom the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) applies.

      Other important Sections under this Act:
      1. Section 3: Penalty for giving or taking dowry;
        Punishment: Imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years and fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of dowry, whichever is more.
         
      2. Section 4: Penalty for demanding dowry
        Punishment: Imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 6 months but which may extend to two years and with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees.
         
      3. Section 4A: Ban on Advertisements; Offering a share in property, money, etc. to lure people to marry their son or daughter.
        Punishment: Imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 6 months but which extend to 5 years or with fine which may extend to fifteen thousand rupees.
         
      4. Section 5: Agreement for giving or taking dowry to be void.
         
      5. Section 6: Dowry to be for the benefit of woman or heirs; if given to a person other than the woman for whom it is given, shall be transferred within the given time frame.
         
      6. Punishment for non-compliance: Imprisonment which shall not be less than 6 months but which may extend to 2 years or with fine which shall not be less than 5,000 rupees but which may extend to 10,000 rupees or with both.
         
      7. Section 8-A: Burden of proof shall be on the person who has been prosecuted under Section 3 or 4 that he had not committed the said offence.
         
      8. Section 9: Power of Central Government to make rules. In furtherance of this power, the Central Government enforced rules with respect to preparation and maintenance of list of presents received by the bride and bridegroom at the time of marriage. These rules are known as the Dowry Prohibition (Maintenance of Lists of Presents to the Bride and Bridegroom) Rules, 1985.
         
  5. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006

    As old age custom as it seems, the draconian practice of child marriage is still prevalent in India, especially in the poor families of India. This Act was commenced on 10th January 2007 for prohibition of solemnisation of child marriages in India. The Act consists of 21 sections, Section 21 repealing the earlier Act i.e. the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929. The term Child under this Act has been defined as a Male, who has not attained the age of 21 years, and a female who has not attained the age of 18 years. This Act deals with marriages in which either or both the parties are child at the time of solemnisation of Marriage.

    Important Sections:
    Section 3: Child Marriage to be voidable at the option of contracting party being a child. The Child after attaining the age of majority, shall within 2 years may file a petition for decree of nullity of marriage, or if he/she is minor, the petition can be filed through Child Marriage Prohibition officer.
    1. Section 4: Provision for maintenance and residence to female contracting party to child marriage.
    2. Section 5: Custody of Maintenance of children of child marriages
    3. Section 6: Children born out of child marriage would be legitimate
    4. Section 9: Punishment for male adult (18 years or above) marrying a child.
      Punishment: Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.
    5. Section 10: Punishment for solemnising a child marriage
      Punishment Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with and shall also be liable for fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
    6. Section 11: Punishment for permitting or promoting solemnisation of child marriages
      Punishment: Rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with and shall also be liable for a fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.
    7. Section 12: Marriage of Minor child to be void in certain circumstances i.e. if he/she is taken or enticed out of the custody of lawful guardian; by force compelled to go from any place or; sold for the purpose of marriage or sold or trafficked for immoral purposes.
       
  6. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

    This Act is a special law framed for the protection of rights of women guaranteed under the Constitution of India who are victims of violence taking place in household and related matters. Commenced on 13th September, 2005 this Act contains 37 Sections. Section 3 of the Act defines Domestic Violence which includes an act in order to harm or injure the life, health, safety, etc. of the aggrieved person and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional and economic abuse.

    Other Important Sections:
    1. Section 5: Duties of police officers, service providers and magistrate
    2. Section 9: Duties and functions of Protection officers
    3. Section 12: Application to Magistrate by the aggrieved person. This section makes it mandatory for the Magistrate to dispose of such application within 60 days from the day of its first hearing.
    4. Section 16: Proceedings to be held in camera
    5. Section 17: Right to reside in a shared household
    6. Section 18: Protection orders
    7. Section 31: Penalty for breach of protection order by Respondent
      Punishment: Imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees, or both.
    8. Section 33: Penalty for not discharging duty by Protection Officer
      Punishment: Imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or fine which may extend to twenty thousand rupees, or both.
       
  7. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988

    The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 was enacted by the Parliament to regulate all the aspects of road transport vehicles. It covers detailed provision on licensing of the drivers and conductors, registration of motor vehicles, the provision on controlling their permits, traffic regulation, related insurance, liabilities, and penalties. The Act consists of 217 Sections and two Schedules.
    The Motor Vehicle Amendment Act of 2019 increased the amount of penalty imposable under the Act.

    Important Sections:
    1. Section 177: General Provision for punishment of offence (Section 129 wearing helmet, Section 130 Not carrying documents), etc.
      Punishment: Fine of Rs. 100 for first offence, then 300 rupees After 2019: 500 rupees for first offence, then 1500 rupees
       
    2. Section 180: Allowing unauthorised persons to drive vehicles Punishment: Imprisonment which may extend to 3 month or fine which may extend to 1000 rupees, or both;
      After 2019: Fine increased to 5,000 rupees.
       
    3. Section 181: Driving vehicles in contravention of Section 3 or 4 (Driving licence and age limit of driving) Punishment: Imprisonment which may extend to 3 month or fine which may extend to 500 rupees, or both; After 2019: Fine increased to 5,000 rupees
       
    4. Section 183: Driving at excessive speed, etc. in contravention of Section 112 Punishment: Fine for amount of 400, if again convicted: 1000 rupees After 2019: In case of light motor vehicle: 1,000-2000 rupees In case of heavy vehicle: 2,000-4,000 rupees
       
    5. Section 184: Driving dangerously
      Punishment: Imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months or fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or both. In case of subsequent offence committed within 3 years from commission of first offence, imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years or fine which may extend to two thousand rupees or both.
      After 2019: Imprisonment for a term which may shall not be less than 6 months but which may extend to one year or fine which shall not be less than one thousand rupees but may extend to five thousand rupees or both.
      For subsequent offence: Fine which may extend to 10,000 rupees in place of 2,000 rupees.
       
    6. Section 185: Driving by a drunken person or by a person under the influence of drugs
      Punishment: Imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months or fine which may extend to two thousand rupees or both. In case of subsequent offence committed within 3 years from commission of first offence, imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years or fine which may extend to three thousand rupees or both.
      After 2019: Fine increased to 10,000 rupees
      In case of subsequent offence: Fine increased to 15,000 rupees (The time difference between first offence and subsequent offence has been omitted)
       
    7. Section 186: Driving when mentally or physically unfit to drive
      Punishment: Fine which may extend to two hundred rupees; in case of subsequent offence, may extend to 500 rupees
      After 2019: Fine which may extend to one thousand rupees; in case of subsequent offence, may extend to 2000 rupees
       
    8. Section 203: Breath tests
The abovementioned Minor Acts specifically deal with various offences such as domestic violence, road accidents, child marriages etc. These Minor Acts bring about clarity in the punishments, procedure for taking cognizance, etc. in the offences dealt in the minor acts. There are other minor acts which are of great significance such as the Prevention of Corruption Act, the prevention of cruelty to animals act, etc.

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