Law Reform has been a continuing process particularly during the last 300 years or more in Indian history. In the ancient period, when religious and customary law occupied the field, reform process had been ad hoc and not institutionalised through duly constituted law reform agencies. However, since the third decade of the nineteenth century, Law Commissions were constituted by the Government from time to time and were empowered to recommend legislative reforms with a view to clarify, consolidate and codify particular branches of law where the Government felt the necessity for it. The first such Commission was established in 1834 under the Charter Act of 1833 under the Chairmanship of Lord Macaulay which recommended codification of the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code and a few other matters. Thereafter, the second, third and fourth Law Commissions were constituted in 1853, 1861 and 1879 respectively which, during a span of fifty years contributed a great deal to enrich the Indian Statute Book with a large variety of legislations on the pattern of the then prevailing English Laws adapted to Indian conditions. The Indian Code of Civil Procedure, the Indian Contract Act, the Indian Evidence Act, the Transfer of Property Act. etc. are products of the labour of the first four Law Commissions.
After independence, the Constitution of India with its Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy gave a new direction to law reform geared to the needs of a democratic legal order in a plural society. Though the Constitution stipulated the continuation of pre-Constitution Laws (Article 372) till they are amended or repealed, there had been demands in Parliament and outside for establishing a Central Law Commission to recommend revision and updating of the inherited laws to serve the changing needs of the country. The Government of India reacted favourably and established the First Law Commission of Independent India in 1955 with the then Attorney-General of India, Mr. M. C. Setalvad, as its Chairman. Since then twenty one more Law Commissions have been appointed, each with a three-year term and with different terms of reference.
The Twenty-first Law Commission was constituted through a Government Order with effect from 1st September, 2015. It has a three-year term, ending on 31st August, 2018. The Commission presently comprises of the following:-
Dr. Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan
|Mr. Justice Ravi R. Tripathi|
|Prof.(Dr.) S. Sivakumar|
|Dr. Sanjay Singh|
Shri Suresh Chandra, Law Secretary
Dr. G. Narayana Raju, Secretary (Legislative)
Prof. (Dr.) Bimal N. Patel
Shri Satya Pal Jain
Shri Abhay Bharadwaj