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The introduction of Right to Services Act in India has given a powerful weapon in the hands of citizens of India. The era before its inception witnessed tormenting state of Government Departments where citizens had to go through unspoken hassles, corruption, delayed services with lack of transparency by some errant public servants with a sense of impunity in their Government Departments. In consideration for growing incidents, complaints and to introduce a statutory mechanism that could control such activities, the Right to Public Services Legislation was enacted.
The Right to Service Act contains statutory laws and provisions to ensure time-bound delivery of public services to citizens of India. It also defines the statutory mechanism to punish delinquent public officers if they fail to deliver the requested service within a stipulated time. The Right to Service Act is considered to be one of the most effective ways to reduce corruption in India, enhance transparency in public sector operations and provide public accountability. It is a state legislation and states have complete discretion to adopt, implement and limit the Act in whatever manner they deem fit. Currently, there are 20 states that implement this Act and represent the duty of their state towards their citizens by providing them standard, quality, transparency and timely delivery of public services, in addition to an enforceable Grievance Redressal Mechanism. Madhya Pradesh was the first state to enact the Right to Service Act on 18th August 2010 and 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.
Public Services are the rights of Indian citizens and must be provided to them by designated government officials within the stipulated time. Some of the common public services include issuing the birth certificate, death certificate, ration card, marriage or domicile certificate, electric connections, telephone connections, voter’s card, copies of land records etc. Every state that implements this Act has covered different services and has different penalty mechanism for the failure of providing public services.
Generally, citizens receive an acknowledgement after they submit an application to the public officer for the preferred service. Ideally, the officer is supposed to render service within the stipulated time from the date of the 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 the 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 the substantial reason for non-performance or delivery of his/her service. Impact of Right to Services Act With around 20 States adopting the Act, it exhibits actual efforts made to curb corruption and foster transparency government departments, which can help the common man to avail public services without any hassle. However, the question that arises after the adoption of RTS Act is how well its implementation has transformed the existing system? The answer is right here! It is evident that implementation and political obligation towards the Act vary from state to state. Each state has laid down penalty on failure to deliver the service within the set time and amount of penalty provided by states differ. The impact of the Act depends on every state’s implementation order. If the implementation is strong, the legislation can play an instrumental role in curbing corruption and tracking the workflow in each Government Department. Amongst all the credible states mentioned above, Karnataka has won accolades. The past figures revealed that in a month-long pilot study, 1 lakh 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 the 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.
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The movement to curb corruption has already commenced and the focus of this Act is to adopt effective measures for Redressal of public grievances against errant public officers. The 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 an introduction of Acts like Right to Information, Right to Service Acts, Lokpal Bills etc. have kindled their light of beliefs on governance.