The Delhi government’s announcement on Tuesday that it was abolishing 200 types of affidavits is seen as a positive for citizens, who will be allowed to self-attest papers for availing of various services. But not all are happy — some notaries fear they might be driven out of business, while others want to wait and watch till they receive an official communication.
Delhi’s decision to allow self-certification of documents by citizens is not the first such initiative to cut paperwork for common people. It has joined at least 10 state governments that have already done away with the need for affidavits, and several others that are in the process of doing so. The move has come a little more than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi encouraged all Union ministries and state governments for this. But even Modi’s advice, given on August 1 last year, was not the first such.
In an office memorandum dated May 10, 2013, the Union personnel and public grievances ministry under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government of the day had urged all departments for a similar step, on the recommendation of the second Administrative Reforms Commission in its 12th report.
|SELF-SIGNATURE IS ENOUGH|
Punjab was one of the first to adopt the self-certification provision under its administrative reforms programme. “On the recommendations of the Punjab Governance Reforms Commission, the state government has done away with all affidavits for 89 services that were ‘local inventions’ and sought from citizens,” Business Standard had quoted a Punjab government spokesperson as saying in a July 2014 report. Uttar Pradesh, similarly, had adopted self-attestation by July 30 last year.
Rajasthan and West Bengal state governments had ordered the adoption of self-certification in November 2014, the latter was reported to have told the Centre that the system of filing affidavits cases should continue till the relevant laws in that regard were amended.
According to media reports from May this year, as many as 24 states and Union territories, besides 50 central ministries, had either abolished affidavits or were working towards doing so in favour of self-attestation of documents.
Assam issued an order in this regard on February 23 this year, Himachal Pradesh issued one on January 31, and Meghalaya followed suit in June. Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are also among the states that have already adopted self-certification.
Besides, the Centre had in June issued an order stating that people belonging to the minority community would no longer need to secure minority certificates to avail of benefits of government schemes. Instead, self-attested community certificates would be enough.
In Delhi, most government offices and departments have so far required filing of documents attested by notaries or gazetted officers. From December 1, however, citizens will be able to self-certify their important official documents.
Announcing the Delhi government’s decision, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had on Tuesday said: “Till now, an applicant was forced to run around the notary’s office for affidavits that were routine in nature. The government has decided to do away with 200 categories of affidavits to prevent unnecessary harassment and financial burden on people.”
Sisodia had clarified that around 40 affidavits had been retained, as these were mandatory under central and Delhi laws.
Reacting to the announcement, Prem Kumar Sharma, who runs a notary shop in Central Delhi’s ITO area, said: “This will drive us out of business. This was a profession where a graduate could at least earn a living. How are we supposed to feed ourselves and our families now?”
Not many, however, were open to talking about the Delhi government’s move before they received an official communication. Ashok Kumar Shukla, who provides notary services at the Patiala House court in the capital, told Business Standard: “We can’t say anything till the list of abolished affidavits is released. Then, the government will have to notify it in its official gazette. Only after that will we be able to give a definitive comment.”
While substituting affidavits with self-certification will make it easier for citizens to access government facilities and utilities, authorities are also taking steps to ensure that cases of false declaration attract strict punishments. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) contains a number of sections specifically dealing with the implications of making false disclosures and providing wrong information. Misuse of the self-attestation facility could attract punishment or fine under Sections 177, 193, 197, 198, 199 and 200 of IPC.