The wrong side of the law

Sahil Shah tells you how some of the most bizarre laws in the world could make attending court proceedings as hilarious as watching a comic flick


While growing up I had always dreamed of becoming either a doctor [because my handwriting looks like a drunken man wrote while being electrocuted] or a lawyer [because I love lying professionally]. But I ended up becoming a stand up comedian, which is technically being both, because on one hand ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and on the other, people pay me money to speak nonsense. Life is perfect!

Yet if I were to change my profession, I’d willingly become a lawyer because there are so many bizarre laws across the world, it would make going to court seem like a comedy movie. For instance, did you know that in Alaska, it’s illegal to wake a sleeping bear to take its photograph? Or that in Washington, pretending to have wealthy parents is illegal? Or in India playing table tennis with a goldfish while it smokes is considered a criminal offence? [Okay, I made up the last one but there’s a very probable chance of it actually being a law somewhere else in the world.]

Since I wanted to practise my law skills, I did some research and it gives me great pleasure as I present to you five of the most bizarre laws across the world.

In New York the penalty for jumping off a building is—death

That’s the most ironic punishment anyone can ever think of. You’re basically punishing attempted suicide by death, which is as logical as punishing a thief by giving him money. Also, how would the authorities punish you?

I’ve got a suggestion for them; it’s a really simple procedure. Let’s say you jump and survive, they punish you by taking you to the top and throwing you off again!

If this was a law in India, I can imagine an entire police force being hired to catch these ‘criminals’. They will set up roadblocks on the side of the building so that if you fall faster than the speed limit, they can catch you.

Come to think of it, the only way to avoid this law is by setting a giant trampoline at the bottom of each building. It’s like a birthday party where life is the return gift!

In Texas, if you are going to commit a crime, you legally have to notify the police 24 hours prior to the event

the-wrong-side-of-the-law-2-260x168If you thought New York had odd laws, then let me introduce you to the best law on the list. Notifying the police in advance? This sounds like the poor man’s version of Minority Report. Plus, in this modern age I’m sure if you’re a policeman in Texas you will get a Facebook invite for an event called ‘Robbery at 6’ and you can choose ‘Attending, Not Attending, Maybe Attending [based on the bribe]’.

I can only imagine the phone calls that must happen to comply with this law…

Police: Hello, police hotline. This call may be recorded for criminal catching purposes.

Robber: Hi guys! I’m just calling to inform you that I’m going to rob one house in Dallas tomorrow.

Police: All right, just call the Dallas branch and inform them. They will arrest you in about half an hour after the robbery; you are innocent until proven guilty. That’s our policy! 30 minutes or you are free!

Robber: Cool! See you tomorrow! Also it’s BYOW.

Police: BYOW?

Robber: Bring your own weapons!

Police: Oh! Good one. See you.

The only way you can avoid this law is by sending a letter of intimation to the police. Judging by the speed of the postal service, the police will capture you only once you have been reincarnated.

In Baltimore, it is illegal to take a lion to the movies

Firstly, who takes a lion to a movie? Which man [or woman] is standing in a zoo and thinking, “Hmm… this lion should totally catch the latest Hunger Games movie. He’s been staring at me for quite a while now.”

Recently a man was mauled when he entered a tiger enclosure and people have been blaming the poor tiger for the attack. I believe we are getting our facts wrong. The conversation between the man and tiger must have been something like this:

Man: Hey, do you want to go for a movie?

Tiger: Sure, which one?

Man: Let’s go see Twilight.

Tiger: Why you little… *attacks man*

Also I find this law unfair to lions. What if they want to watch The Lion King or see their fellow creature’s Oscar-worthy role as the MGM logo? I know lions should not be allowed in theatres because their preferred movie snack is human. The only way someone can avoid this law is by sneaking in a lion and claiming it’s their wife who forgot to bleach in the morning.

In England it is illegal to die in the house of parliament

This is an unfair law because it’s impossible to not die of boredom in the Parliament. I want this law to be implemented in India because our politicians are so old that it should be illegal for them to be alive.

Some of our politicians are so ancient that their original voting constituencies are Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Unfortunately, no parliament allows death as an escape plan. I’m pretty sure as soon as your soul leaves your body, the House Speaker will start screaming, “Please sit down. Can all the souls please maintain decorum and sit down?!” Hence forcing the politician to stay and suffer! Rather than that he should just go to the top of the building and jump off. After all he’s a politician—no cops or road blocks can stop him!

Speaking of old people, here’s a law that was probably meant only for them…

In some states, including California, Florida, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii, a motorist can be cited for driving too slowly

You will agree that only oldies would commit this crime. Old people should never be allowed to drive because their entire life is lived in first gear. I’m not saying old people drive slowly but their side view mirror has a sign that says: ‘Objects in the mirror may seem closer than they appear because they want you to stop blocking the road’.

It must be terrible for a policeman to catch someone driving slowly right?

Policeman: Sir, I have caught you because you were way below the speed limit.

Old man: Was I not fast enough?

Policeman: Sir, I walked and came to your car—that’s how slow you were. You need to at least drive at the minimum speed limit.

Old man: So you want me to speed?

Policeman: Sir, you’re driving so slowly that if you attempt to speed, you will drive at the normal speed!

Old man: Anything else officer?

Policeman: Yeah, please don’t drive slowly again. Don’t you know that you are not supposed to commit a crime unless you call us in advance?!

In conclusion, when I think about it, I’m really glad that India does not have some of these stupid laws. It’s true that some laws are meant to be broken but these laws… they are just out there to break you! I’m really proud of living in a country where you can do what you want without the fear of being persecuted. If you do want to learn more about strange laws, you know where to find me—I’ll be playing table tennis with a goldfish who smokes!

Bizarre laws in India

  • If you don’t file a report to the police regarding any treasure [it can be as little as INR 10], you can be sent to jail.
  • Couples can be arrested if more than 10 couples dance together on a single platform.
  • Do you have a license to fly kites? No, then don’t you dare do that or you will be arrested. In India, a person needs to have a license/government permit to make, possess, sell or fly a kite.
  • Delhiites can be fined INR 50 if they fail to or ignore a call by the government to beat drums on the streets if locusts invade the city.

This was first published in the November 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Sahil Shah
Sahil Shah is one of India’s youngest comedians. He is founding member of East India Comedy, has done over 400 shows and is known to be the funniest comedian in the entire universe [according to his dad].


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