The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has asked the Central Government ministries to review the existing requirements of affidavits and attested copy by Gazetted officers in various forms in a phased-manner and wherever possible, make provision of self-certification of documents and abolition of affidavits.
"Some ministries have adopted the provision of self-certification of documents such as mark sheet, birth certificate, etc by the applicants or stakeholders. Under the self attestation method, the original documents are required to be produced at the final stage," it said in a letter.
The DoPT said the self-certification of documents is "citizen friendly" as making affidavits cost money to the poor and involves wastage of time of the citizens as well as of the government officials.
The state governments have also been asked to review the existing requirements of affidavits and attested copy of Gazetted officers in various forms in the departments and boards, corporations and field offices in a phased manner and wherever possible, make provision of self-certification of documents and abolition of affidavits.
"Affidavits impose their own cost on the citizens—buying stamp paper, locating a deed writer, payment to the Notary for attestation and, of course, the time and efforts consumed in these processes. On the other hand, affidavits have no particular sanctity in law and the same function can be easily performed by declarations," according to a background note on 'reforming public service delivery systems in India' made by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
In Punjab alone, it is estimated that at least half the households file affidavits annually for one service or the other.
"Extrapolating this figure to India, the total number may be more than 20 crore citizens or affidavits and assuming a cost of Rs 400 per affidavit (one day wages plus stamps, fees and charges), the total expenses incurred by the citizens in India could well be to the extent of Rs 8,000 crores approximately," the note said.

Affidavits, therefore, need to be replaced by self-declarations for all services in the public utilities or agencies.

Affidavit is a declaration, and such, a declaration in itself is adequate for the purposes of law.

Attestation by the officials, thus, does not appear to be necessary. The applicant or signatory continues to be responsible for the statement made, it said.

"One advantage that the public agencies have is that they can also impose penal liability for making wrong statements in terms of suspension of the services (suspension of ration card facilities, disconnection of power supply),”  the DoPT said
"This practise of self declaration needs to be adopted in place of affidavits. This will save a lot of bother and sizable expenses in the citizen having to procure stamps or stamp paper which is mostly not available at the place where the affidavit is to be submitted. Some of the central government agencies (passport, income tax) have already adopted this practise,” it added..
The Ministry also cited various penal sections of law to check false information or declaration by an individual.
"There appears to be no legal problem in adopting this (self-certification) practise. The Indian Penal Code contains a number of Sections such as 177, 193, 197, 198, 199 and 200,” it said.

“These Sections specifically deal with the implications of any false information, evidence, disclosure or declaration made by the deponents and, any such instances have been included to be subjected to the imposition of penalties, fines, registration of criminal cases and even imprisonment," it further added..
The affidavits are required in support of facts given by the applicants for issue of various certificates, (residence etc.). Affidavits are affirmations by the applicants (supported in some cases by third parties).
"Historically, governance has been a prisoner of the colonial non-faith citizen-government exchange. The interaction of the state vis-a-vis the citizens continues to remain divergent, even antagonistic, in terms of realization of the claims, entitlements and the basic rights," the note said seeking to replace affidavits with self-certification.

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