The next time you need a passport, a birth or death certificate, a driving licence or a ration card, you may not have to sweat it out: on Thursday, the Union Cabinet approved a Bill to promote transparency and accountability in the government's delivery systems for its citizens, a senior official confirmed.
The draft Bill will now be referred to the Ministries of Law, Home Affairs and Personnel and Training, after which it will go straight to Parliament.
But Right of Citizens for Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, may not find easy passage in Parliament, with the BJP saying it would vote against the version cleared by the Cabinet, which saw it as a “direct intrusion on the domain of the States.”
The Union government resorting to item no 8 of List III to give force to the Citizens’ Charter Bill, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, violated the Constitution’s federal spirit. While the Centre could enact a Citizens’ Charter for Central services, it should not encroach upon the States’ domain — at best, it could suggest a model law, he maintained, adding that Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttrakhand and Himachal Pradesh had already enacted Citizen Charter Acts or Public Services Guarantee Acts.
However, the Bill that was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011, has already been considered by a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
Officials say this law will be more effective in tackling corruption at the grassroots than the Lokpal Bill that was drafted after a civil society protest led by activist Anna Hazare.
The Bill deals with government departments that deal directly with citizens: they include constitutional bodies, statutory authorities, public-private partnerships, NGOs substantially funded by the government and companies that provide services under a statutory obligation.
These authorities will be directed to publish a citizens’ charter detailing the services they offer, the quality of services to be provided, as well as timelines of delivery. Penalties ranging from Rs. 250 to a maximum of Rs. 50,000 a day will be imposed on officials who fail to deliver services in time. It mandates the establishment, both at the Centre and in the States, of public grievance redress commissions that will be permitted to refer a case for investigation to the Lokpal wherever there is evidence of corruption.