The government has introduced in Parliament today a bill that is intended to prove its commitment to fighting corruption among government officers. The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 clearly outlines the responsibilities of government departments towards citizens - and how someone who is denied the service due to them can take action. Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare had asked for this issue to be included in the Lokpal Bill. Though the government has not done that, it has tried to meet Team Anna half way by suggesting that if a citizen does not get the help he or she is entitled to, the Lokpal or the Lokayukta can be appealed to as a last resort. (Read the bill here)
These are the highlights of the Bill:
Every public authority or government department has to publish a citizen's charter that clearly lists all the services that department has to render along with timelines. The bill also provides for a "grievance redressal mechanism for non-compliance of citizen's charter."
The Bill sets up a central public grievances redressal commission - and an equivalent in every state.
There is a designated authority i.e. an officer who is not from the department against which the complaint has been filed. This officer is selected by the government and has to be above the rank of the Grievance Redressal Officer.
Citizen's charter has to clearly explain the complaint redressal system for that office - like which officer in that department the complaint should be registered with
Every government department or public authority shall create an "information and facilitation centre" - that could include a customer helpline or helpdesk to deliver services and to handle complaints.
Every public authority will appoint or designate Grievance Redress Officers whose contact information will be clearly shared with the public. The Grievance Redress Officer shall provide the public with all necessary assistance in filing complaints. Within two days of the complaint being registered, the citizen who has filed a complaint will receive - by SMS or mail - a unique complaint number and a time frame within which the complaint will be handled. That time frame cannot exceed 30 days from when the complaint was received.
The Grievance Redress Officer has to ensure that the person who made the complaint is informed in writing with an Action Taken Report of how his or her complaint was handled. If this does not happen, the citizen can appeal to a Designated Authority. This officer can summon others and ask them to testify under oath.
The Designated Authority has to ensure the appeal is acted upon within 30 days. He or she can fine the officer concerned and compensate the citizen, if appropriate.
If a citizen is not happy with the Designated Authority's response or decision, he or she can take their complaint to the State Public Grievance Redressal Commission (assuming that the complaint is against a government department that is under the jurisdiction of the state government). Each state shall set up this body. It will have a Chief Commissioner and a maximum of ten other commissioners. They will be appointed by a committee consisting of the Chief Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in that state, and a sitting judge of the High Court. The commissioners will have a term of five years.
For citizens who are unhappy with a service provided to them from a government office that is under the jurisdiction of the central government, they can finally appeal to the Central Public Grievance Redress Commission. This body with have a Chief Commissioner and a maximum of ten other commissioners who will be appointed by the President after they are chosen by a committee of the PM, the Leader of the Opposition and a sitting judge of the Supreme Court.
If citizens are unhappy with the decision of the Central or State Commissions, they can appeal to the Lokayukta or Lokpal.