India is a historic land with a rich heritage, culture, diversity and traditions. Here, ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ means that the guest is to be treated like God. With India’s scenic beauty and aesthetic value becoming a huge part of its identity, it is no surprise that the number of tourist to this land is increasing by the day.
Along with blissful travelling often comes an ignorance of the laws of a place. However, the Indian legal system is lengthy and cumbersome. It is definitely not worth getting oneself embroiled into, over what was supposed to be a fun and memorable vacation.
Fortunately, the Indian law stands clear upon a majority of tourist laws, irrespective of whether you are an international tourist or are just visiting within the country. The same are stated below:
In India, women have a right to resist being escorted to the police station by anyone other than a female officer. They may also legally refuse to go to the police station between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., as mentioned in the Code of Criminal Procedure.
One need not physically go to the police station to lodge a complaint. He may simply register a complaint via e-mail or post after gathering the local police station’s address from the internet. Women can also lodge a complaint by mailing it to the National Commission of Women at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Indian Penal Code gives plenty of room for vague interpretations with regard to provisions for public display of affection. While in some areas, it is permitted to hug or make out, in other more remote areas, it is considered offensive to even hold hands in public. It is advisable to gauge the environment before indulging in any such activity.
Section 268 of the Indian Penal Code defines ‘Public Nuisance’ as an illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to the public or people in general. A tourist must keep in mind that loud noises and music, public drunkenness, vandalism and nudity can constitute as ‘public nuisance’ under this definition.
As tempting as it is to take pictures and videos of various tourist attractions, certain temples, government zones and the like, have a rule against it. Be careful to put away your binoculars at crowded airports, railway station etc. as well.
Different states in India have different laws regarding consumption of alcohol. Alcohol may also be banned when an election is nearing or on days of religious or political importance. Some states, like Gujarat, have a no-alcohol policy all year round. One may require a permit for the same. Additionally, carrying alcohol between states is often illegal due to the varying alcohol laws of the states.
Drugs are unequivocally banned throughout the country and offenders may be liable to fine or imprisonment of anywhere between six months to 10 years.
Any antique items bought or transported between places must be registered with the local police, along with a photograph of it.
When it comes to foreigners visiting India, there are broadly three laws that one needs to comply with:
The Passport (Entry Into India) Act, 1920
The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939
The Foreigners Act, 1946
While it is not necessary to know these acts like the back of your hand, certain formalities must be complied with:
Every foreigner must register himself within 14 days (or 24 hours in case of a tourist from Pakistan) at the Foreigner Regional Registration Office unless mentioned otherwise in his visa. This can be done at the airport itself. Foreigners visiting India for a period of 180 days or less need not register themselves.
Section 14 of Registration of Foreigners Act provides that a foreign national must disclose his/her name, nationality and documents such as passport, ID proof etc. and give his signature to the hotel or guest house where he is staying. The management of the hotel/guest house must inform the police of the said arrival within 24 hours.
To stay in a hotel, foreign nationalists also need to keep copies of Form C and Form F of the Registration of Foreigners Act. These can be obtained from the Foreigners Registration Office or downloaded online.
Foreign nationalists aren’t allowed to visit places marked as protected areas or restricted areas unless they are in possession of a permit by the concerned authority. The request for such permission must be made at least eight weeks in advance and must be substantiated by an extra-ordinary reason to visit the said places.
International tourists must keep their passport on them at all times. If they choose to drive during their journey, they must have an international driving permit as well as a helmet in case of riding a two-wheeler.
Foreign nationalists must not engage in public nudity unless they are within an area that is dedicated for the purpose, like the Nude Beach in Goa.
Any cash, bank notes or traveler’s cheques exceeding a sum total of 1000 USD or its equivalent must be disclosed in the Currency Declaration Form. This currency may be converted to India currency only at banks or through authorized moneychangers.
There are two check-in counters at the airport for tourists. Passengers having no dutiable articles or unaccompanied baggage may walk through the Green Channel, while the others must take the Red Channel. If a passenger is caught in possession of dutiable or prohibited goods in the Green Channel, he is liable to a fine or prosecution as well as confiscation of the goods.
Travelers visiting from Yellow Fever Endemic Countries must possess a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate conforming to International Health Regulations before they are allowed into the country.
As much as these laws are in place to ensure a seamless experience to tourist, I feel that a little more is required from the government and concerned authorities. There must be a tourist helpline number as not every tourist has a holistic understanding on his rights and duties. The government must also discourage tourism agencies that are not authorized by the government, to prevent them from defrauding unsuspecting travelers.
These, among other measures, will not only aid in a hassle-free trip but will also actively promote tourism in the country.