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In a notification issued on 30 May 2014, the Ministry of External Affairs-MEA cautions citizens not to fall for fraudulent agents as Passport Offices are the only recognised channels to apply for passport
In order to do away with the 'Agent Raj' for passport applications, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has issued a stern public notice on May 30 2014, stating that: “There is no system in place to ‘recognise/ authorise’ any individual or any travel agency in this regard in the country.”
Since March 2013, Moneylife has been campaigning for citizen-friendly system for passport applicants considering that Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is in public-private-partnership (PPP) with the Passport Division of MEA to bring reforms through technology. Moneylife had also highlighted how passport agents are in an alleged nexus with authorities, as they provide appointments and passports much quicker as compared to an applicant who directly applies for his passport.
In a never before public notice that is definite in its appeal, states: “It has come to the Ministry’s notice that some private portals/ individuals have been claiming that they are ‘recognised / authorised’ by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, to extend passport assistance to the public.”
“The Ministry hereby makes it clear that the passport portal (www.passportindia.gov.in) is the only Government portal offering passport services to citizens within India. The portal is web-based and can be accessed by anyone, anytime, anywhere for seeking passport services. There is no system in place to ‘recognise/authorise’ any individual or any travel agency in this regard in the country. Any one dealing with such fraudulent portals/ advertisers/ claimants, will do so at his/ her own risk and consequence.”
Besides, the website www.passportindia.gov.in is also running a header stating that those applicants who are not internet savvy, can avail of the Citizen Service Centres for filling and uploading passport application forms and scheduling appointments for a nominal fee of Rs100.
This warning by the MEA is indeed a welcome move and will help in ending the menace of passport agents which have been charging applicants Rs2,000 or more. Agents have also been creating hurdles for passport applicants seeking to use the right route. However, it remains to be seen whether Citizen Service Centres are indeed applicant-friendly. While Moneylife will track this issue, we request readers to give us feedback on Citizen Service Centres and any other experiences they had/ have at passport offices.
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
Normal reaction of any MP or MLA to a problem, even if economic, is generally that it would be resolved through a legislation. However, whether the legislation can be enforced or not is never analysed, says Dr Bibek Debroy
Our laws range from retrograde to obsolete and almost always complex. But, what really are the reasons behind this stagnation? What does it take to get rid of ancient and often expendable laws? For any problem, even if it is economic, most of the members of Parliament (MPs) and members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) will tell you that it would be resolved through a legislation. Whether the legislation can be enforced or not is never analysed by them. As a result, we have a bunch of legislations that have never even been used.
Dr Bibek Debroy, an eminent economist, scholar and columnist answered these and other important questions in an informative session organised by Moneylife in Mumbai. Let's take a look at what he had to say.
In the year 2000-2001, the movement for law reform intensified. What were the challenges and achievements?
Dr Debroy said that the process entails several steps. When it comes to old laws, the simplest task is when you identify the entire piece of legislation as redundant. Such a piece can be repealed in its entirety, however this happens very rarely. In the year 2000-2001, when the movement towards legal reform gained momentum, about 200 such laws were identified and amendments to the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) were also passed.
He added that most legislations have dysfunctional sections and are not entirely inapplicable. In such cases, modification becomes difficult as one needs to then examine and identify the particular sections that need to be repealed. In addition, if repealed, one needs to find out whether an alternative legislation needs to be prepared and the job becomes more tedious.
The first step to identification of laws that need to be looked at would be to have an exhaustive list of the total number of statutes. While the central statutes can be numbered down to around 2,000-2,500, the state statutes have still not been counted down in records. This exercise needs much more focus and diligence.
What is the process to repeal a law? How does it vary for different kinds of laws?
Dr Debroy elucidated the process by discussing the different possibilities involved in the birth of the laws. The process for repealment depends on where the statute was enacted. A statute enacted by the union government has a bearing as pe the seventh schedule of the Constitution of India. If the statute is enacted from the Union List, it has to be repealed by the Parliament. A statute enacted from the state list will be repealed by the state legislature. For a statute enacted from the concurrent list to be repealed, a rectification from two-third of the total number of states is a pre-requisite.
In matters of Constitutional Law, he said that an amendment to the Constitution is more difficult than other laws.
Laws in India are too complicated for a common man's understanding. Isn't there a need to simplify the law?
Dr Debroy agreed that laws should be more lucid. Going a step further, he explained the reasons behind this state of affairs. He also highlighted how apart from just old laws, the Indian Parliament is also known for using legislation as the primary tool to tackle all kinds of issues.
He went on to explain an important doctrine related to the enactment of laws - the discipline of cost and benefit. Under this principle, the legislator studies the gains and losses of enacting a particular law. This principle of discipline of cost and benefit, although globally present, has not been applied in India. As a result, many pieces of legislations enacted post 1991 have been enacted in isolation. The normal reaction of any member of Parliament (MP) or member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) to a problem, even if economic, is generally that they must solve it through legislation. Whether the legislation can be enforced or not is never analysed. Consequently, we have a bunch of legislations that have never even been used! The legislator not only needs to do a cost and benefit analysis, he must also take stock of all the existing laws that impinge on it.
Reformations should initiate at our legislature. Do you think the way the Parliament functions needs a change? Does the time-span for which the Parliament functions need to be extended?
With the new trend of constant disruptions and adjournments, the dissatisfaction with the functioning of the Parliament is genuine and intense. Dr Debroy threw light on how an average MP is generally not interested in legislation. The position of the MPs are undermined by the standing committees.
Usually, in case of a straight forward draft, the Parliament does not object. This draft, however, has to originate from a certain Ministry or Department. Highlighting the role of the Law Ministry as a catalyst for change, he said that this was the job of the Law Ministry. It has been observed that since 1991, the Law Ministry has not acted as a catalyst for change. In order for this to happen, a prompt follow up by the Law Commission is inevitable. The nature of the bureaucracy of the Law Department also needs to be designed to be more active and pro-reform.
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