No affidavits but self-attestation in Punjab

Punjab government in 2010 came up with a policy that was citizen friendly and helped the people save money from a deed which was not so necessary. Doing away with affidavits and accepting self-declarations has been applauded by many.

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Notifying the people of the state, the Punjab government in March of 2010 replaced affidavits with self-attested declaration. This would be applicable for all need based services, admission purpose and other areas where legal documentation was not necessary. It is to take note that the government just decided to do away with affidavits that were not mandatory and those which were required as per law stayed.

As replacement to the affidavit system, the government introduced a system that was less troublesome. It is the self-attestation form, which contains self-declaration by the person who submits the form and even has a photograph. The form has been made available at all Suwidha Kendras by the Punjab government.

In some cases where affidavits are provided by statutory rules, the government made it a point to amend the bylaws.

Government of Punjab has been successful in bringing down the number of affidavits in two years. As per the department of Governance reforms in 2009-10 there were around 14.88 lakh affidavits filed and after the government made it clear that affidavits were no longer needed the number in 2011-12 fell to 1.1 lakh.

In services that are mandatory to have an affidavit along under the state and centre laws, like passport service or arms license the rule still stays. Other all affidavit requesting services that were not bound by law have been done away with.

In 2009-10 out of the total services that the citizens availed at the district Suwidha centres (22, 68,439) more than half (65.60%) were affidavits alone. The number as mentioned before was 14, 88,053. In the year after the self-declaration plan was brought up only 9.81% (3.20, 963) services had affidavits.

The estimated cost of the affidavit process is too costly if to look at it in practical manner. Buying the stamp paper, locating a deed writer, payment of the notary for attestation do not come at a very cheap rate if considered. It is estimated that at least half the household file affidavits annually for any service. If the cost of each affidavit is Rs. 400 and if we take around 20 crore citizens as the estimate who do fill affidavits then Rs. 8,000 crore approximately.

Under the affidavit system it was required to be attested by executive Magistrate but under the self-declaration by applicant if attestation is necessary Suwidha centres will be authorised to do so. If an applicant gives wrong content under the affidavit no warning or caution was given. Under the self-declaration the signatory is liable for action under sections 199 and 200 of IPC in case of wrong declaration. Photograph of the applicant is not required in affidavits except for the ones under Suwidha centre this stays in self-declarations too.

The centre government on June 17, 2014 lauded the Punjab government’s efforts to do away with affidavits as a citizen friendly reform. The centre also extended this successful policy to other states as well.

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