Dhaka, Bangladesh
Guaranteeing time-bound services

Guaranteeing time-bound services

By K. Venkataramanan

A significant Bill that could help guarantee delivery of services to citizens and empower them to seek redress of their grievances has not seen the light of day for years now. more-in The Hindu Explains The ombudsman law needs to include statutory guarantees for the right to delivery of services When the Supreme Court observed recently that the Lokpal Act was an "eminently workable" piece of legislation, and wondered why it was not being operationalised, it was indirectly admonishing the government for delaying the establishment of the Lokpal. It is one of several citizen-friendly laws dating back many years that have either lapsed or are yet to be enacted or not implemented for one reason or the other. A significant Bill that could help guarantee delivery of services to citizens and empower them to seek redress of their grievances has not seen the light of day for years now. The Right of Citizens for Time-bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011 but it lapsed with the term of the last House. The essence of the proposed law was that every public authority will be required to publish a citizens' charter that will set out the goods and services provided by it, along with timelines for their delivery. Some States have such legislation to guarantee to right to public services delivery, but the Central law sought to provide an overarching framework. The Bill required every public authority to establish information and facilitation centres for an efficient and effective delivery of services and redressal of grievances. The Bill provided for the appointment of grievance redress officers and State and Central Public Grievance Redressal Commissions. Citizens could file complaints before these authorities pertaining to any violation of the citizens' charter, that is, a failure to deliver goods or services as promised, or the rules of any scheme or policy as well as those related to the functioning of any public official. These grievances would have to be remedied within 30 days. Those aggrieved by the grievance redress officers' orders could appeal before a Designated Authority. Further appeals to the State and Central Commissions were provided for. Orders by these two Commissions could be appealed against before the Lokayukta and the Lokpal respectively. A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which went into the provisions of the Bill, felt that there was one appeal too many provided in it. It did not favour the Lokpal and Lokayukta, conceived of as anti-corruption agencies, being burdened with grievance redressal, and wanted this final tier of appeal to be dispensed with. While implementing laws related to the ombudsman against corruption, the government would do well to give statutory guarantees for the right to delivery of services. As a citizen-strengthening package, it should also fast-track proposals for a whistle-blower protection law and electronic delivery of services as well.

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