Law will ensure that grievances are addressed within a fixed time frame
If the proposed Lokpal Bill intends to address corruption in high places, the UPA government, as part of its anti-graft campaign, plans to introduce a Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Bill to complement it in the coming winter session of Parliament.
At a joint press conference, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions V. Narayanswamy stressed that it would go beyond the Delivery Mechanism laws now in operation in a few States.
Mr. Narayanswamy said the Grievance Redress Bill would address grievances related to public services and corruption in service delivery that afflicted the common man and that would not be addressed by the Lokpal Bill. Mr. Ramesh pointed out that while some people — an apparent reference to Team Anna — wanted corruption in high places as well as in service delivery to be included in the Lokpal Bill, the government's view was that it would be better to split it into two laws for more effective implementation.
The Grievance Redress Bill would cover the functioning of panchayats, the government, public sector units — and even the police — Mr. Narayanswamy said adding that this law, once enacted, would ensure that citizens' grievances would have to be addressed within a fixed time frame.
It would look into complaints of violation of the citizens' charter, which would be formulated by each government department, identify liabilities of public servants in case of default and impose penalties for failure to deliver services or redress grievances in a time-bound manner.
Mr. Narayanasamy said the architecture of the new Bill would ensure an appropriate decentralised and citizen-friendly mechanism to redress public grievances. “The citizens' charter will have to be defined by the authorities at various levels, including panchayats, municipalities, States and the Centre. For every authority, there will be a Grievance Redress Officer,” he said. The Bill would be put up on the website of the Department of Personnel for 21 days for people to give their comments.
The Bill, the Minister said, could be enacted as a Central legislation under the concurrent list and cover Central schemes and Central government departments. It would provide a platform to States to make a grievance redressal mechanism for State schemes and departments.
The Union government had evidently decided to give a strong push to the fight against corruption and hoped to introduce five new anti-graft laws, including the Lokpal Bill, Judicial Accountability Bill, Whistleblowers' Bill, and now the Citizens' Grievance Redress Bill in the winter session.
Mr. Ramesh pointed out that the UPA government's distinct contribution to governance was a set of rights-based laws relating to information, education and employment. The Citizens' Grievance Bill was a step in the same direction, as it would empower the citizen to get his everyday grievances addressed, he said.