The Sarais Act, 1867

The Sarais Act, 1867 (Act no. 22 of 1867) dated 15th March, 1867 was enacted with the object to deal with regulation of public Sarais and Puraos. The originally was provided under its firs provision for repealing of Bengal Regulation, 1807. The Act was extended in the first instant only to the territories under the Government of Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western provinces of Presidency of Fort William in Bengal. Similarly, the State Government was given power to provide for its extension to any other part of territories under its Government.

The important definitions were provided under this Act under its ‘interpretation Clauses’ under section 2, where Sarai has been defined as building used for shelter and accommodation of travellers and also includes Purao.

Further, section 3 deals with provision of serving notice by the Magistrate to the keeper of every Sarai to which the provisions of this Act applies and which come under the jurisdiction of such Magistrate within the period of Six months after the Act brought into force. Such notice is to be served for requiring them to register their Sarais as per provisions of this Act. The format of the Notice is given under the Schedule annexed with this Act.

Section 4 requires the Magistrate of the District concerned to keep register of Sarais, which should contains the names and description of the keepers of all the Sarais within the jurisdictionof such Magistrate. Such register should also contains the location or situation of every such Sarais in respect of which the keepers name and description entered into such register. Also such entries in the register should be made by the Magistrate for free i.e. without any charges. Similarly, section 5 specifies that no keeper of any Sarai or any other persons concerned thereof, should not receive any lodger or allow any person, cattle, sheep, etc. to halt or otherwise in such Sarai without having registered the name and other information of the Keeper thereof in the register kept by concerned District Magistrate. The Magistrate of the concerned District is further authorized to refuse entering the name of the keeper of any Sarai if such keeper is not producing a certificate of Character as on form prescribed by the State Government concerned.

The Act under its section 7, specifies certain duties which the keeper of Sarai should be bound to follow. Such duties includes giving of notice to the nearest police station, immediately if any person found ill of any infectious or contagious disease or even if any person died of such disease; giving the Magistrate or any person authorized by District Magistrate free access to the Sarai and also to allow them to inspect the Sarai at all time when so required; cleansing the rooms and verandahs (land appurtenant), etc. of Sarai and even the wells or tanks, etc. from which the water is obtained; removing all noxious vegetation, etc. on or near the Sarai; repairing the gates, walls, fences, etc.; providing number of Watchmen as per the opinion of the District Magistrate and exhibiting the list of Charges for using Sarai. The keeper of Sarai should report the Magistrate or to any other person as has been authorized, about all persons who has resorted to Sarai during the period of preceding day or night. Such report should be made on so required by the District Magistrate concerned. Even such report can be made for more period exceeding aforementioned period as per requirement of the Magistrate. Also the Magistrate can provide for a schedules in which the Keeper to enter the information so required and should also transmit such schedule to the Magistrate concerned on his demand.

The Magistrate of District concerned is empowered under section 9 of the Act, to issued notice to the owner or otherwise person claiming to be owner, requiring such owner to secure, clean, etc. the Sarai which by reason of abandonment or due to disputed ownership remain untenanted and as such has became resort or idle or filthy or otherwise. And in case such required cleaning or otherwise is not made within 8 days period, the Magistrate of the District can performed execution of such work by others and all expenses should be recovered from the owner thereof.

If any such Sarai is found in the ruinous state, or has became dangerous to the person or animals, etc. then the Magistrate can require keeper by giving him notice to the effect that, any repair or otherwise to performed by him. In case of failure on the part of keeper thereof, the Magistrate can cause such work to be done by others, and all expenses to be recovered from such keeper. Similarly, the Magistrate of District concerned can sell the materials of the Sarai for meeting the expenses incurred in repairing such sarai.

Section 12 is important in so far as it is dealing with penal provision for the act of letting the sarai to be filthy or overgrown by the Keeper thereof or even for the non performance of act of cleaning or clearing the same. The punishment which is provided in the form of penalty for breaching the provisions of this Act or regulations made thereunder, under section 14 of the Act, is also applicable in this case.

The State Government is empowered to make regulations under section 13 of the Act inconsistent with the object and purpose of this Act. Such rules or regulations should be published in the Official Gazette. As per the section 16 of the Act, the provisions of this Act are not applicable to the Sarais under the management of State Government or Municipal committee. Unlike other enactments the extension and short tile of this Act is given on the foot of the Act.

As per interim report (Report 248), of the Law Commission, on the study of “The Legal Enactments: Simplifications and Streamlining”, many obsolete enactments are recommended for the repeal. The present Act is also recommended for repeal with the consultation of States. The reason shown in the report for repealing is that this Act is now redundant because hotels are already registered under relevant state legislations and regulations made thereunder. Further, it has been reported in the news that police and tourism officials have harassed hotel owners in the recent past for failure to comply with the provisions of the Sarais Act, as such the present Act now be repealed.

by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan.