Postcard from... New Delhi


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The Independent Online

If you happen to unearth treasure worth even as little as 10 rupees (about 1p) in India, don’t think of pocketing it – because under a law introduced by the country’s former British rulers, it still belongs to “Her Majesty”.

Now, however, the Treasure Trove Act of 1878 and nearly 300 other outdated laws are set to be repealed in the largest-ever cull of rules that make India one of the most puzzling places in the world to do business. The new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is hoping that less regulation and faster decision-making will lift India from its ranking of 134 out of 189 countries on the World Bank’s ease of doing business table into the top 50 and attract investors.

“Some of the laws on our books are laughable. Others have no place in a modern and democratic India,” said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who is leading the clean-up.

Previous administrations have failed to remove obscure laws dating back to the 19th century, either because of objections by government departments or simply a lack of will. But Mr Modi’s office has identified 287 obsolete laws for scrapping in November,  including an 1838 law that says property in part of Calcutta can only be sold to the East India Company which ceased to exist more than 150 years ago. AP