Lately many Governments and organizations across the globe have begun to realize the necessity of collecting statistics on a national and global gage.[1] It is implicit that no solid policy measure can be taken and no effective directives may be given by the Government, if there remains lacunae in the understanding of ground realities. Therefore, in India there are two principal legal Acts, viz. Census Act, 1948 and Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 (“CS Act”) under which direct data collection is conducted.

The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 is the principal legislation in India that empowers collection of economic, social, demographic, scientific, and environmental data.[2]  The Government is further empowered to make rules, or pass directives or instructions under the CS Act for collection of statistics. It is understood that any newer activity, plan or policies cannot be undertaken or imposed without complete understanding of the ground reality so as to enable the policy makers to understand the issues before they act upon making relevant provisions to tackle those issues.

THE COLLECTION OF STATISTICS ACT, 2008

The CS Act, extends to the whole of India, except Jammu & Kashmir. The Act also provides for appointment of statistics officers to collect information, and contains provisions to ensure security of information.

Salient Features of the CS Act

  • The Act enhanced the scope of collection of statistics in many ways. The scope of the CS Act broadly covers collection of data from industrial/ commercial concerns, individuals, and households.
  • Furthermore, any Government department or organization at central, state or local level is empowered to appoint a statistics officer. In view thereof, it would be apposite to say that the term “appropriate government” includes any Local Government also.
  • Methods of data collection under the CS Act includes oral Interviews and filing of returns electronically.
  • As under Section 2(c) of the CS Act an "informant" means any person, who supplies or is required to supply statistical information and includes an owner or occupier or any person in-charge or his Authorised representative in respect of persons or a company under the Companies Act, or any association recognized or registered under any law for the time being in force. Pursuant to this, any statistics officer may serve any informant with a notice asking him/ her to furnish any information to the concerned authority as required by law.
  • The vires of Section 6 of the CS Act highlight the duty of the informants to furnish the Information called for under the provisions of the Act. The informants who are asked to furnish any information under the provisions of this Act shall be bound to furnish the information so asked in the prescribed manner to the best of knowledge or belief.
  • As under Section 8 of the CS Act, the statistics officer or any person authorised shall, for the purposes of collection of any statistics under this Act, have access to any relevant record or document in the possession of any informant required to furnish any information under this Act.
  • In case the informant fails to furnish the requested information or neglects or refuses to supply the particulars required in any information schedule or return given or sent to him shall be punishable in the case of a company, with a fine which may extend to five thousand rupees.

Lacunae in Law 

  • Since, the CS Act does not apply to the state of Jammu & Kashmir, the Jammu & Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010 stands applicable there. However, both The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 and Jammu & Kashmir Collection of Statistics Act, 2010 are not applicable to statistical subjects falling within the Union List as applicable to Jammu & Kashmir under the Constitution (Application to Jammu & Kashmir) Order 1954. Furthermore, The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008 is not applicable to matters specified in the Concurrent List as well leading to a legislative vacuum.
  • Another issue with the CS Act is that there is no person empowered or designated to coordinate and supervise the statistical activities to carry out the purpose of this Act.
  • Therefore, in order to resolve the above mentioned issues, The Collection of Statistics (Amendment) Bill, 2017 has been introduced[3] with an intent to amend The Collection of Statistics Act, 2008.

THE COLLECTION OF STATISTICS (AMENDMENT) BILL, 2017

  • The Bill seeks to extend the applicability of the CS Act to Jammu & Kashmir with respect to matters falling under the Union List and the Concurrent list.
  • The Bill provides that nodal officers will be designated by the Central Government or the State government or Union Territory Administration. Such nodal officers shall coordinate and supervise statistical activities under the government by whom he/she is appointed. The powers and duties of the nodal officers shall be determined by the Central Government.
  • Further, the CS Act provided that any information provided to statistics officer or to any person/agency authorised shall be used for statistical purposes only. However, the Bill removes this provision and empowers the Central Government to make rules to determine the manner in which such information will used for statistical purposes.

COMMENT

Once the Bill crystalizes into the Act, it will strengthen the mechanism of data collection in the state as matters not previously covered as the Constitution Order, 1954 will now get coverage. The introduction of designation of nodal officers is envisaged to result in effective coordination of data collection and formulation of statistics.