Fadnavis announced his commitment to better governance on his first day by committing to transparency
It is significant that the Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr. Devendra Fadnavis announced his commitment to better governance on his first day by committing to transparency, Right to Information and the citizen’s Right to Services. He has announced that he will introduce a new law to fulfil the last objective. He has not been briefed that there is an existing law
the “Government Servants Regulation Of Transfers And Prevention Of Delay In Discharge Of Official Duties Act, 2005” (Act 21 of 2006), which has the same objectives. This has the following key elements:
1) Section 4 which mandates fixed tenure for Government officers. This has been blatantly violated by the earlier government.
2) Section 8 which requires all departments to make a Citizen Charter. The rules require that all the Heads of departments at Mantralaya and all the offices under them upto Taluka and sub-divisional levels must make their own citizen charter which should be updated in May of every year. This has not been done.
3) Section 10 which mandates that all decisions on files should be taken within 45 days; if the matter requires consultation with other departments the time period could be 90 days.
The Act taken along with the rules (notified in 2013) requires the Citizen charter to be updated by May of every year. If decisions are not taken within the specified period it requires disciplinary action to be taken against the responsible officer in a time bound manner. Taken together with its rules no officer can delay a response to a citizen’s application, representation or complaint for over 90 days. This also covers decision making with respect to all government working and is really a powerful act which could have as much impact on governance as the Right to Information Act. The rules also specify that once the matter of delay is beyond the permissible days the head of department must complete a preliminary enquiry into the matter to determine responsibility and submit a report. The head of department must then take appropriate disciplinary action against the responsible officers. The only matters exempted by this law are matters relating to quasi-judicial decisions and policy matters.
Unfortunately the earlier government did not implement it at all. If a new law is to brought it would take a minimum of six months before it can be passed and implemented. Most of the objectives which such a law could give are available in the existing law. Some people have argued that an adjudicatory mechanism like the information commissions should be provided for to resolve disputes. There is a flaw in this thinking. In RTI there are exemptions and hence there is a need for an institution of a commission to resolve these. In the case of this law the only issue will be whether the citizen charters are made meaningfully and whether the timelines mentioned in them or the overall timeline mentioned in the law have been adhered to. The current law requires a decision to be taken within a specified period. If this is a done a lot of harassment and corruption could be curbed. Presently citizens have to face the problem of not getting any response to their applications, representations or complaints within any timeline. Government working itself becomes lethargic by not deciding matters for months, even on important matters. There would be a need for an adjudicator mechanism for a grievance redressal law.
If the Chief Minister wants to implement this law, he can ask for enquiries to be undertaken in a 1000 cases across the State, and disciplinary action to be taken against the responsible officers. If he asks for this to be done by 31 December and also citizen charters to be displayed by then, 2015 will see a glorious year for him and the State. Citizens and media should persuade him to do this immediately.