Cabinet okays Bill to ensure time-bound delivery of services

NEW DELHI (TIP): The Cabinet has approved a Bill that promises time-bound delivery of services such as passports, tax refunds, pensions and birth and death certificates to the citizens, and stipulates a penalty of 250 per day against errant government officials. The Right of Citizens for Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, approved by the cabinet on March 7, makes it mandatory for all government departments and public authorities to publish Citizens’ Charter stating the time within which specific services will be provided. Each department will also have to provide for a grievance redressal mechanism for non-compliance of the charter’s provisions. The proposed legislation lays down a penalty extending up to 50,000 against an official who fails to provide the service.

The Bill, spearheaded by the department of administrative reforms and public grievances also mandates a public authority to establish a call centre, customer care centre, help desk and people’s support system to ensure timebound delivery of services. It also seeks establishment of public grievance redressal commission at the Centre and in each state. As per the Bill, a person aggrieved by the decision of the commission may prefer an appeal before the Lokpal at the Centre (in case of decision by the Centre’s public grievances redressal commission) and the Lokayuktas in the states. All services provided by both the Centre and the state governments will be extended to citizens in a time-bound manner under the bill. According to an official familiar with the matter, the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions, and the law ministry, will decide whether non-resident Indians should be covered under the proposed legislation. The Bill, however, came under attack from the main opposition, BJP, which said the legislation attacked the federal structure by compelling states to adopt it. “The Cabinet has cleared the citizens’ charter bill, but they have mandated this Act on the states as well, forgetting that more than 10 states have their own citizens’ charter law. Some of them are stronger than the Centre’s Bill,” BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said. “This would be an attack on federal structure.

The Centre should formulate a law only for central services,” Javadekar said, adding, “At best, they should make it a model law. The states that do not have a citizens’ charter already can follow it to make their own legislations.” Social activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal said he did not agree with the BJP, even as he refused to comment on the merits of the Bill. “I do not agree with the BJP’s argument. But I cannot be sure whether it is a good bill till I get to read it,” said Kejriwal, founder of AAP. An official said the draft bill would go back to the ministries of law, home affairs and personnel and training as it required fresh paraphrasing. This means that it need not go to the Cabinet again and can be directly introduced in Parliament.

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