The private sector utilities providing public services such as electricity distribution companies have been brought under the ambit of the citizen’s grievance redressal, also known as citizen’s charter bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha this week.
The proposed law provides for designating a public grievance officer responsible for redressal of grievances of citizens within a period of 30 days. It also mandates each public authority to have a citizen’s charter defining its public services and duty of officials in providing the services.
Failing to redress the grievance in 30 days could result in fine of up to Rs 50,000 by the state grievance redressal commission and action against the erring officer. The bill also prescribes grievance redressal mechanism to be adopted by public authorities.
The definition of the public authority in the proposed bill mentions that any company which supplies goods or renders services in pursuance of an obligation imposed under any Central or State Act or under any license of authorization under any law for the time being in force by the Central and the State government.
This clearly covers private companies such electricity distribution or municipal service companies which have signed an agreement with the government to provide services to people on behalf of the government. Companies providing other services such as telecom and health would also be covered.
The definition of public authority under the Right To Information (RTI) law was regarding private sector substantially financed by the government. But, the proposed grievance law is a step forward from the RTI law with provisions clearly including private companies rendering public services.
The proposed law explicitly mentions any agreement between the government and private entity including Public Private Partnership agreements to be covered, which the government had refused to bring under the ambit of transparency law RTI.
Once the proposed bill is enacted, the citizens will get another platform to get their grievances redressed apart from consumer courts. With it, the government has tried to address a major concern of citizens regarding companies not heeding to their complaints.