The government on Monday put up a draft of the Maharashtra Guarantee of Public Services Act in public domain, delivering on the promise made by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to give citizens a legal tool to demand better government services.
The draft law that has taken liberally from Fadnavis’ original bill, first proposed in 2011, makes it mandatory for the government to provide services from marriage certificates to driving licences within a stipulated timeframe. It also proposes a penalty on errant officials and disciplinary action against habitual offenders.
While Fadnavis’ original bill spelt out a penalty of up to Rs 5,000, the current draft has shied away from the quantum of the fine. It also states the services to be covered under this Act.
“We plan to put all services under the ambit of the Act, but currently we are asking departments and local authorities which services they will offer now, along with its stipulated timeline. This is because certain procedures may have to be tweaked, or done away with,” said a senior official.
In the first phase, the government is keen on putting up nearly 100 key services such as driving licences, marriage certificates, property registrations, and land records under the ambit of the law. The upper maximum limit for the penalty is expected to be kept at Rs 5,000, but this can be changed via a notification.
The draft law states that every application from a citizen will be given a unique number specifying time and date for its disposal.
The proposed law lays down provisions to designate officials in-charge of providing every service notified under it, besides appointing a first appellate and second appellate authority to hear grievances or appeals.
These authorities have been given powers of a civil court to hear cases, along with the powers to record evidence and summon witnesses. The penalty, if imposed on a defaulting official, will be debited from his/her salary.
Officials who default more than 50 times in a year will be termed habitual defaulters and face action. The law has set up a state public services delivery committee led by the chief secretary.
“There has been discomfort in the bureaucracy with this law, especially with the penalty. The draft law needs to be clear about fixing responsibility,” said an official. The government has sought suggestions till February 23. It is likely to be tabled in the budget session of the state legislature.