The citizen’s charter has become the crux of the debate currently underway about the Right to Services (RTS) legislation after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis flagged off the issue after he took oath last Friday.
It’s also turning out to be the wedge in the activist community: A section wants it as the core of the proposed legislation that Fadnavis has set in motion, while another – the Mumbai-based Lokadhikar – says the existing Act provides for such charters and it only needs to be implemented.
The proposed Bill, government sources said, is likely to emphasise the citizen’s charter and provide for a statutory mechanism in which erring officials can be penalised as in the RTI Act where citizens who have been denied information can approach information commissioners.
Chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya has to submit a draft of the proposed legislation by the end of this month.
The existing Act — the Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Duties Act of 2006 — focuses on two aspects: fixed tenures for government officials and timelines of 45 to 90 days within which citizens must get the service they seek. Citizens’ charters are a part of this process.
The Act is taking an indirect route, by talking about tenures of officials and time limits, while the focus should be on the citizens and citizens’ charters instead of on officials, said activist Vijay Kumbhar. He is among those who has backed the need for a new RTS legislation even exhorting citizens to send their ideas to the Fadnavis government.
Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner and a Right to Services campaigner through Lokadhikar, disagreed. “The law clearly provides for it but bureaucrats don’t want to implement it. The CM only has to crack the whip and we will see citizen’s charters being displayed in all departments,” he said.
If the format and language of these charters, in the few that exist, are awkward and incomprehensible, a team can be set up to rectify them and a standard format can be circulated to all departments, Gandhi added.
The citizen’s charter, according to the Act, is a list of facilities or services rendered by a government office or department, together with the time limit for providing such facility or services to citizens.
However, the track record of departments has been unsatisfactory.