Post Office Bill 2023
The recently proposed Post Office Bill of 2023, which has already secured passage in the Rajya Sabha, is currently under deliberation in the Lok Sabha. This bill seeks to replace the age-old Indian Post Office Act of 1898, marking a crucial legislative shift in the realm of postal services.
GS-02 (Government policies and interventions)
- Aim- The Bill aims to “consolidate and amend the law relating to Post Office in India,” which today provides many services beyond simply mail delivery.
- New Post Office Bill (2023): The 2023 bill addresses the limitations of its predecessor, the Indian Post Office Act of 1898, which primarily focused on traditional mail delivery. The evolving role of the modern Post Office, now offering a diverse range of citizen-centric services, necessitated a legislative update.
- It also empowers the Centre to authorize officers for intercepting, opening, or detaining postal items under specified circumstances.
- Grounds for interception include state security, friendly foreign relations, public order, emergencies, public safety, or law contravention.
- Exemption from Liability (Section 10): The bill introduces a provision exempting the Post Office and its officers from liability for issues like loss, wrong delivery, delay, or damage during services unless specific rules dictate responsibility.
- A significant departure from the 1898 Act involves the removal of penalties and offences, including those related to post office officials’ misconduct, fraud, and theft.
- Non-payment for services is now subject to recoverable charges, similar to arrears of land revenue.
- The bill eliminates Section 4 of the 1898 Act, which granted exclusive privilege to the Centre for conveying all letters. This exclusivity had already eroded with the rise of private courier services in the 1980s.
- The 2023 Bill regulates private courier services for the first time, extending interception powers beyond letters to any postal article.