New Delhi: The Union government’s proposed revamp of the Indian Post Office Act will allow employees to open postal parcels in the interest of national security or public security, apart from also giving officers the power to divert them to the authorities concerned if there is suspicion of duty evasion.
According to The Hindu Businessline, these provisions are part of the Post Office Bill, 2023 that was introduced in the Rajya Sabha during the just-concluded monsoon session. It will repeal the Indian Post Office Act, 1898 – a colonial-era law – and “consolidate and amend the law relating to the Post Office in India”.
The report said that the Bill prescribes the power to “intercept, open or detain any item or deliver” it to the customs authority. “The Central Government may, by notification, empower any officer to cause any item in course of transmission by the Post Office to be intercepted, opened or detained 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 this Act or any other law for the time being in force,” says one provision.
A postal officer will also be empowered to deliver an item that is received from a domestic or international source to customs or any concerned authority “in case there is suspicion of duty evasion or it is prohibited under the law”. Those authorities will deal with such items in accordance with the provisions of the law, the Businessline report said.
There is also a provision which says the Post Office and its officers “shall be exempt from any liability by reason of any loss, misdelivery, delay or damage” in the course of providing services. “No officer of the Post Office shall incur any liability with regard to a service provided by the Post Office, unless the officer has acted fraudulently or wilfully caused loss, delay or misdelivery of service,” the Bill says.
“Every person who avails a service provided by the Post Office shall be liable to pay the charges in respect of such service. If any person refuses or neglects to pay the charges, such amount shall be recoverable as if it were an arrear of land revenue due from him,” says another provision.
According to Businessline, the Bill says post offices shall have exclusive privilege to issue postage stamps.