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Right to service

What is the bill called?

The Right of Citizens For Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011

How will it help one?

A person can complain, whether or not corruption is involved, if he feels his right to a service has not been respected and a public official or department has been unresponsive.

A government official can be fined Rs 50,000 if he does not act on a grievance against such inaction within 30 days of the complaint being filed.

What should guide the conduct of public officials?

The Citizen’s Charter. Every public functionary’s duties will be listed in the charter in quantifiable tangible terms. It has to be followed by every government department and office and will also be displayed outside every office. The government will widely circulate the charter through the media and the Internet. Also, every department shall have a call centre and helpline to give out information on goods and services that citizens are entitled to.

How will I find out against which official I should complain?

The names of the officials responsible for time-bound delivery of a service will be mentioned in the Citizen’s Charter. The complainant can use this list.

Where can I file the complaint?

The first complaint has to go to the grievance redress officer (GRO). Every government office will have such an official. On filing his complaint — it can be through any medium — the citizen will get a unique complaint number. The time the government office requires to sort out the problem will be specified when the complaint number is created. The maximum time to act on any complaint will be 30 days.

Is there any website where such complaints can be filed?

There is no government website yet to take the complaints but there are plans for one.

What should the GRO do with my complaint?

It would be the duty of the GRO to find out the reason why the lapse has occurred and fix responsibility on the erring official. In the case of a deficiency or negligence on the part of any public servant, the GRO will have to recommend to a higher designated authority a penalty, including compensation for the citizen who has suffered. He will also have to give an action-taken report to the citizen and forward any complaints that have not been dealt with to the designated authority.

What will the designated authority do?

Complaints not dealt with by the GRO will be treated as an appeal by a designated authority. The authority will act as a civil court. It will summon evidence, witnesses and officials and will have to dispose of the case within 30 days after the citizen appeals.

What about urgent cases?

Such cases will be sorted out on the day of appeal if possible. The government officials shall be heard before a penalty is imposed on them. This could be a fine of up to Rs 50,000, deducted from the salary. In the worst-case scenario, they could face disciplinary action or corruption charges.

What steps can the designated authority take?

The designated authority could initiate proceedings against the erring official or in writing refer it to appropriate authorities to take cognizance of any corrupt practice. The designated authority can also act suo motu.

Further appeal against the official will go to the state public grievance redress commission, which will get 60 days maximum to dispose of the case.

Who will be the members of the state public grievance redress commission?

It will have 11 members — a chief commissioner, who will be on a par with an election commissioner, and 10 commissioners. They will be selected by a committee comprising the chief minister, the leader of Opposition in the Assembly and a high court judge nominated by the high court chief justice. The commission will have SC, ST and women representatives.

The chief commissioner will either have to be a high court judge, a district judge for 10 years, an eminent person in public service who has worked in the social sector for 15 years with a relevant post-graduate
degree, or a person who has been a secretary or principal secretary to a government.

The chief commissioner will hold office for five years or till 65 years of age, whichever
comes earlier.

Will there be a central counterpart to the state redress commissions?

Yes, the Central Public Grievance Redressal Commission. That will deal with complaints from the designated authority in any central government office. Members of this panel will be selected by the Prime Minister, the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a SC judge nominated by the CJI. The chief commissioner should be
a chief justice of a high court or a judge of the apex court, eminent persons in public service who have worked for 20 years in the social sector with a relevant post-graduate degree and persons who have held secretary-level posts with the Government of India.

Will there be more government employees recruited?

There is no plan to recruit government officials. Within the existing set-up, officials will be designated GROs and take complaints from citizens.

Is there any estimate of the additional annual expenses because of the bill?

There is no separate estimation or allocation yet. There are also no extra emoluments for officials who will be appointed to take action under the grievance bill.

Is there a higher authority to whom I can complain?

Yes, the state Lokayukta or the central Lokpal.
Anna Hazare had demanded that these provisions be included in the Lokpal bill but the government has introduced a separate bill to deal with public grievances.

Is any category of government officials outside the purview of the bill?

This will be decided at a later stage because the bill will now go to a standing committee.

How far is the bill from becoming a law?

After the draft bill goes to a parliamentary standing committee, it will be examined
threadbare. The panel will suggest ways to improve the bill.

The bill will have to be cleared first by the Lok Sabha, then the Rajya Sabha and get the President’s assent before it is notified and comes into effect.

Within six months of the law being notified, the Citizen’s Charter will come into effect.