This week saw, for the very first time, the swearing-in of independent notaries. With the first group of over 900 already approved, it will mean that a district will have an average of three notary officials on top of the existing ones.
Authenticating documents in the past was a very tedious and inefficient affair as only particular government offices handled it.
Even though the service had been discentralised to the lower administrative level, it was not enough. Now lawyers will take on the functions; but there is need for caution.
As the justice minister warned while swearing in the first batch of notaries, those who will use blind trust to authenticate documents without deep scrutiny are in for a surprise. That possibility is very much alive.
Unscrupulous lawyers might be tempted to cut corners to give favours to friends and relatives by authenticating forged documents – even if for a short while.
Therefore, there is need to put in place checks and balances; the new authenticators must be authenticated regularly. But that should not be the only deterrent; strict penalties beyond those reserved for forgery should be enacted.
Someone with the powers to give documents a life of their own and abuses that trust to help commit a felony, needs some extra topping on penalties meted on them otherwise we could see the arrival of new white collar crimes for which we might not be prepared.