Lok Sabha Examines Post Office Bill 2023, - The India Saga



Lok Sabha Examines Post Office Bill 2023,

On Wednesday, December 13, the Post Office Bill 2023, which the Rajya Sabha had approved on December 4, was presented…

Lok Sabha Examines Post Office Bill 2023,

On Wednesday, December 13, the Post Office Bill 2023, which the Rajya Sabha had approved on December 4, was presented to the Lok Sabha for discussion. The Bill, which aims to repeal the Indian Post Office Act of 1898, which has been in effect for 125 years, includes provisions that permit the Center to intercept, open, or detain any item and hand it over to customs officials. 

What is the Post Office Bill 2023?  

The Indian Post Office Act of 1898 was primarily concerned with mail delivery; today, the Bill seeks to “consolidate and amend the law relating to Post Office in India,” which offers many more services. The Bill claims that because the Post Office network is now used to deliver various citizen-centric services, it was necessary to repeal the previous legislation and enact a new one.

Significantly, Section 9 of the Bill gives the Center the authority to notify any officer to “intercept, open, or detain any item” in the event of an emergency, public safety, friendly relations with foreign states, state security, public order, or violation of other laws. Additionally, suppose postal items are suspected of containing prohibited items or being subject to duty. In that case, post officers are permitted by this provision to turn them over to customs authorities.

There are similarities between this and the 1898 Act’s Sections 19, 25, and 26. Postal workers or any other living thing that is noxious or likely to injure postal articles, as well as explosives, dangerous, filthy, noxious, or deleterious substances, were prohibited from being sent by postal service officers or postal workers through the mail under Section 19(1).

Post Office released from responsibility.

In addition, Section 10 absolves the Post Office and its representative of “any liability because of any loss, misdelivery, delay, or damage in the course of any service provided by the Post Office,” except any mandatory liability. The government was also released from responsibility for any postal service failures by the 1898 Act unless they were explicitly assumed.

Furthermore, the 2023 Bill does away with all fines and infractions associated with the 1898 Act. For instance, transgressions against post office officials, including misconduct, fraud, and theft, have all been completely removed. In addition, the amount owed to the Post Office for any refusal or neglect to pay the fees for using its services will be recouped from them.

Eliminates the exclusivity of the Center

The current Bill eliminates Section 4 of the 1898 Act, which gave the Center the sole authority to mail any letter anywhere in the world.

This exclusivity was lost with the emergence of private courier services in the 1980s. The term “letter” was not defined in the Post Office Act of 1898 or the Indian Post Office Rules 1933, so courier services got around the law by referring to their couriers as “documents” and “parcels,” as opposed to “letters.”

Does Post Office Bill 2023 cause any concern?

There are privacy concerns regarding a clause in the Bill. The clause allowing a government official to intercept, open, or detain any object caused some Rajya Sabha MPs to voice concerns. According to the MPs, the clause might conflict with the privacy rights of regular people. Following the discussion on the Rajya Sabha bill, Union Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw responded. Citing the necessity for national security, he defended the provision. 

The minister stated that, given the difficulties of the modern era and a society as diverse and complex as India, it was critical to act when necessary to conduct intervention.