Amidst opposition Crying Foul, RS Passes Post Office Bill, 2023

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Amidst opposition Crying Foul, RS Passes Post Office Bill, 2023

| Updated: December 5, 2023 11:20

Amidst opposition Crying Foul, RS Passes Post Office Bill, 2023

The Government claimed that the Post Office Bill, passed in the Rajya Sabha on the first day of business in the winter session of parliament, will enable the Postal Department to function not only as a messenger service but also as a provider of banking facilities. The 125-year-old Indian Post Office Act, 1898 is set to be repealed and replaced by the Post Office Bill, 2023.

The opposition however raised concerns about the provisions in Section 9 of the Bill. Gujarat Congress President and Rajya Sabha MP Shaktisinh Gohil, citing the section of the proposed act, underlined that the bill envisages to provide the post office officials the power to intercept, open or detain any item or deliver item to Customs authority. Shaktisinh Gohil said that the proposed provition is an infringement of the fundamental right of privacy of the citizens. The Congress MP was supported in his argument by Shiv Sena, AAP, DMK,TDP and Left parties.

The controversial section reads as “the central government may, by notification, empower any officer to intercept, open or detain any item in the interest of the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, emergency or public safety, or upon the occurrence of any contravention of any of the provisions of any law for the time being in force”.

Shaktisinh Gohil sought clarification on the terms “public emergency” and “public safety”, ground on which the bill allows the interception of a shipment being transmitted through the post. He wished to know, specifically which level of officer would be authorized to carry out such interceptions.

The Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in his response emained focussed on the NDA Government’s efforts in revamping of the postal services. Hesaid “This new legislation is a reflection of the way post offices and postmen have been transformed into a service-delivery institution from being merely a mail-delivery mechanism, and the post offices have been practically converted into banks.”

The minister did not forget to mention that the postal services had become irrelevant during the UPA regime to the point of being almost phased out. While 660 post offices were closed earlier, around 5,000 offices were opened between 2014 and 2023, and about 5,746 new ones are in the process of being opened, Ashwini Vaishnaw said.

The Government’s stated viewpoint behind the new legislation is to govern the functioning of post offices in the country with simplified legislative framework to facilitate the evolution of post offices and turn it into a robust citizen-centric service delivery network. The director general of postal services is empowered to frame regulations and fix charges in respect services to be provided.

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