Right to Service from Government Officers is the right of Citizens – a legal insight
The introduction of Right to Services Act in India is a powerful weapon in the hands of citizens of India. The era before its inception has witnessed tormenting state of Government Departments where citizens have to go through unspoken hassles, corruption, no time-bound rendering of services, and lack of transparency as well as quality of services by some of the errant public servants sitting with a sense of impunity in their Government Departments. In consideration to growing incidents, complaints and to introduce a statutory mechanism to control such activities, Right to Public Services Legislation was enacted.
A quick glimpse of ‘Right to Public Service Legislation’
Right to Service Act contains statutory laws and provisions to ensure time-bound delivery of number of public services to the citizens of India. It also defines the statutory mechanism to punish the delinquent public officer if he/she fails to deliver the requested service in the stipulated time.
It is considered to be as one of the most effective ways to reduce corruption in India , enhance transparency in working operations and to provide public accountability. Interestingly, it is a state legislation and thus, states have complete discretion to adopt, implement and limit this Act in their respective states. Currently, there are 20 states that are implementing this Act and thus, represent the duty of their respective states towards their citizens by providing them standard, quality, transparency & time frame delivery of public services along with an enforceable grievance Redressal mechanism.
Madhya Pradesh was the first state to enact this Act on 18th August, 2010 and then, Bihar became the second to implement it on 25th July, 2011. At present, the list includes the names of Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Kerala, Uttar-Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Haryana, West Bengal, Gujarat, J & K, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Assam.
What is included in Public Services?
Public Services are the rights of Indian Citizens and should be provided to them by the designated government official within the fixed time frame. Some of the common public services are issuing birth certificate, death certificate, ration card, marriage or domicile certificate, electric connections, telephone connections, voter’s card, copies of land records etc.
Each of the implementing states has covered different number of services in their Act and has different penalty mechanism on failure of providing services.
What’s the general procedure under Public Service Guarantee Act?
- Generally, citizens receive an acknowledgement after he/she submits an application to the public officer for the preferred service. Ideally, the officer is supposed to render his/her service within the stipulated time from the date of that acknowledgement.
- As per the prescribed rules of Government Offices, Acts and Provisions as applicable on any respective Government Office, every service should be provided to the applicant within the fixed time frame unless some genuine reason is supplemented. But, if the said officer fails to render the services within given time-frame, the Act has empowered the applicant to approach the First and Second Appellate Officers.
- The Appellate Officer shall instruct and bind the officer to provide the service to the applicant as they have the power and authorities to impose penalty, summon designated officers and instruct them to produce related documents.
- Any delay after the given instruction by the Appellate Officer shall attract fine as per the State Provisions on the delaying officer.
- Even the Appellate Officer can also be penalized under this Act if he/she fails to perform his/her service or fails to give substantial reason for non-performance or delivery of his/her service.
Impact of this Act at ground Level – A sneak peak
With about 20 States adopting this Act exhibit real movement to curb corruption and foster transparency in their departments, which can resultantly help the common man to avail their rightful services with least amount or no hassles. But the question that arises after adoption is how well the implementation of the said Act has transformed the existing system?
It is evident that implementation and political obligation to the Act varies from state to state. Each state is triggering penalty on failure to deliver the service within set time and the amount of penalty may be different. Is this actually helping in the betterment of system or affecting the bureaucratic mentality of the designated officer?
It depends on the state’s implementation order. If it is good then it can play an instrumental role in curbing corruption and track the work flow in each Government Department to bring transparency. Amongst all the credible states mentioned above, Karnataka has won accolades. The past figures revealed that in a month long pilot study, total 1, 00,000 applications were filed and out of them, 87,000 have been successfully disposed of. It is true that some of the participating states have had poor implementation and some have good implementation.
The Central Government has proposed Citizen’s Charter and Grievance Redressal Bill 2011 or Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their grievances Bill, 2011 on the same lines as that of Right of Services Act. It still has to be passed in the Parliament and shall apply to central Government Departments, constitutional bodies, statutory Authorities, Public-Private partnerships and NGOs mainly funded by Government.
The movement to curb corruption has already commenced and the focus of this Act should be to adopt effective measures for Redressal of public grievances against these errant public officers. Penalty is one reform but it is time to take some additional reforms that can help in ensuring that officers implement this policy. Some of the states like Bihar and to some extent MP have already implemented a package of reforms to ensure service delivery in government departments. The expectations of citizens from Government Departments were falling down but introduction of Acts like Right to Information, Right to Service Acts, Lokpal Bills etc. have kindled their light of beliefs on governance.