A government ministry has proposed decriminalising offences under the Collection of Statistics Act 2008 as part of the government’s efforts to rationalise legislations to promote the ease of doing business.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has invited public comments on its draft proposal by October 30.
The proposal to amend sections of the act will decriminalise offences like obstructing or deceiving statistics officers by doing away with the provision of simple imprisonment up to six months.
However, the MoSPI proposed to increase the fines for the offences to Rs 2000-Rs 20,000 for individuals and Rs 10,000-Rs 100,000 for companies.
The fines now are Rs 2,000 for individuals and Rs 10,000 for companies.
“A higher monetary penalty would be a more effective deterrent than imprisonment as it is more easily enforceable,” the proposal said.
For general, minor offences which are not mentioned in the act, MoSPI has also proposed to do away with imprisonment up to six months while increasing the penalty amount.
“As a residuary provision dealing with minor contraventions, the overreach of this provision may not be too severe.
"Therefore, imprisonment is not recommended. A higher penalty may be a sufficient deterrent against the offence(s) contemplated under this Section,” the proposal said.
The proposal was made after recent comments by commerce minister Piyush Goyal that the government may bring a decriminalisation law in the upcoming winter session of Parliament to reduce the compliance burden of businesses.
For offences like making false statements, impersonation of an employee, mutilation or defacement of information schedule and penalty for failure to carry out duties and functions by employees, MoSPI proposes to retain imprisonment up to six months along with a higher monetary penalty.
“Imprisonment has been retained, observing the fact that willful attempt for a wrongdoing could lead to major offences.
"Imprisonment has been retained only for willful destruction of instruments of public good,” the proposal said.
For neglect or refusal to supply particulars, the penalty has been increased to Rs 2,000 for individuals and Rs 10,000 for companies.
It is Rs 1,000 for individuals and Rs 5,000 for companies now.
“The penalty should be large enough that it has a deterrent effect on the person/company to effect compliance with the directions to furnish necessary information under the COS Act,” the proposal said.