India's Citizens Right to Grievance Redress Bill 2011

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By Jairam Ramesh
The author is Union Minister for Rural Development, Govt. of India

New Delhi, Nov 14, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) The Citizens Right to grievance Redress Bill 2011 marks the next milestone in the UPA government’s mission to enact a series of rights based legislations.  Drawing on the framework of the Right to Information Act, the objective of this Bill is to ensure that the common man receives quick and efficient delivery of the goods and services to which he is entitled and which may have been delayed for any reason whatsoever.

The other objective of this Bill is to ensure that a person who is denied a public good or service to which he is entitled is able to take action against the person who is denying that service on a mala fide ground (such as a demand for a bribe in exchange for the service).

To this end the Bill directs all public authorities to draft and publish a ‘Citizens Charter’.   This document contains a list of functions and obligations that the public authority can be reasonably expected to fulfil.   In addition to this the name and addresses of individuals responsible for the delivery of goods or the rendering of services is to be provided as well.  An illustrative list of contents for the ‘Citizens Charter’ is provide in the Bill itself.  This Charter is to be updated annually.

The Bill establishes new authorities at the level of the Block, District, State and the Centre.   A person can file a complaint with the ‘Grievance Redress Officer’ at the level of the concerned department itself.  Within fifteen days of the filing of this complaint the aggrieved individual is to receive the public good or service he was denied.  If his complaint is not addressed within fifteen days the same is automatically escalated to the level of the Head of Department along with an  ‘Action Taken Report’ detailing the reason for the lack of action on the complaint.   The Head of Department has to resolve the complaint within thirty days of receipt.

Appellate bodies to hear appeals from the Head of Department have been constituted at the level of the State and the Center. If an official is found to have denied a service unfairly or in a mala fide manner then penalties can be imposed against him.

In addition to this a new body called the ‘Information and Facilitation Center’ shall be established within each public authority to provide aid to any individual who wishes to file a complaint.  This body along with the Grievance Redress Officer shall provide all necessary education and assistance to an aggrieved person.

Where it appears to the Head of the Department of the Public Authority that the grievance complained of its indicative or representative of a corrupt act on the part of the individual officer then it shall record the evidence in support of such conclusion and shall initiate criminal proceedings against the official.

The existing mechanisms have proven to be inadequate when it comes to redressing the grievances of citizens.  Most of them are housed within the public authority complained against, thereby leading to an ostensible conflict of interest.

The Bill significantly strengthens the ability of the common man to demand delivery of public goods and services.  It further promises to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the system by eliminating avenues for bureaucratic delays.

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