The Citizens Charter Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday seeks to cover all schemes and departments of the Union government and provide a platform for the State governments to implement similar mechanisms for their schemes.

The Bill makes it compulsory for every Ministry and department to act within 30 days on complaints from the public, failing which an appeal could be filed with a higher authority. This authority would have to dispose of the appeal within 30 days.

Under the proposed law, every public authority will have to designate a Grievance Redress Officer (GRO), right from the block-level up to the Central government. The GRO will receive and act on grievances from the public on services they are entitled to under any law or government policy. The officer must ensure written feedback to complainants about the action taken on their complaint.

The Bill provides that in the absence of such feedback within 30 days of a complaint, the complainant can appeal to a designated authority, which could summon and question the officer. The officer, if found guilty, will have to compensate the citizen in addition to paying a fine.

If a complainant is dissatisfied with the designated authority's decision, he can approach public grievances redressal commissions, which will be established at both the Central and State levels, and right up to panchayats. Any citizen who is aggrieved by the decision of the Central or the State Public Grievance Redressal Commission can appeal to the Lokpal and the Lokayukta to be constituted under the Lokpal and Lokayukta Acts respectively.

Citizen's charters were introduced in the country in 1997 and they were voluntary in nature. The main elements of the charters were to be published containing the details of services and the time period for the delivery of such services. These charters gradually spread from Central Ministries and departments to States and their organisations, but a vast majority of them remained ineffective. However, the demand for citizen's charters was given a push by the anti-corruption movement launched by Anna Hazare.

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