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The Post Office Bill, 2023
News: The Rajya Sabha passed the Post Office Bill, replacing the 125-year-old Indian Post Office Act of 1898.
• The Bill replaces the Indian Post Office Act, 1898. The Act regulates India Post, a departmental undertaking of the central government.
• The government will not have exclusive privilege over conveying letters. Services to be provided by India Post will be prescribed under Rules.
• The Director General of Postal Services will be appointed to head India Post. He will have powers to make regulations on various matters including tariffs for services and supply of postage stamps.
• The government may intercept an article transmitted through India Post on specified grounds, including security of the state and public order.
• India Post will not incur any liability with regard to its services, except any liability prescribed through Rules.
• The Bill does not specify procedural safeguards for interception of articles transmitted through India Post. Lack of safeguards may violate freedom of speech and expression, and right to privacy of individuals.
• The grounds for interception include ‘emergency’, which may be beyond reasonable restrictions under the Constitution.
• The Bill exempts India Post from liability for lapses in postal services. Liability may be prescribed through Rules by the central government, which also administers India Post. This may lead to conflict of interest.
• The Bill does not specify any offences and penalties. For instance, there are no consequences for unauthorized opening of postal articles by a postal officer. This may have adverse implications for the right to privacy of consumers.