By Archishman Chakraborty, Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
On November 26, 2015, the Government of NCT of Delhi, passed The Delhi (Right Of Citizen To Time Bound Delivery Of Services) Amendment Bill, 2015, living up to its promises to provide services in a time bound manner and to compensate the citizen automatically in case of delay in services beyond the prescribed period. The Bill is an amendment to Delhi (Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Act, 2011, and aims at providing citizens with time bound delivery of government services, thus making the life of common man hassle free.
The law so far had left it to the applicant to seek the ungenerous compensation-the maximum amount being Rs 200 for the delay caused. Hence, nobody found it worth their while to name and shame the officers responsible in the three years that the law has been in force. The Bill makes government officials liable to automatic deductions from their salaries in case of delayed delivery to average citizens of Delhi. The Bill also aims to ensure mandatory and automatic compensation for citizens, if government services are not provided to them in time.
IMPROVEMENT OVER THE 2011 LAW
In the previous legislation, a citizen was required to visit Government offices multiple times in order to get the services or to complain against not getting the services. For a poor citizen this meant loss of wages and he had to fight the same system which has to provide him the services, which made the poor citizen left to the whims and fancy of the system which provides citizen services.
The Government now intends to change the above issues through these amendments. It will make the ‘citizen services’ to the poorest of the poor as a matter of ‘Right’ to get timely services.
The Government wants to change the design of the system where ‘competent officer’ will be designated in all Government, local body and public authority offices. He will pay compensation to the citizen ‘automatically’ for delayed services beyond the prescribed period, under the new law, the citizen need not apply for claiming the compensation.
The previous act only had provisions for meagre compensation of Rs20 per day and a maximum of Rs 200 for all kinds of delayed services, whereas in the amendment, it is proposed to have higher and different compensation amount for different services.
The competent officer has to pay the citizen within the time period prescribed and also ensure that the amount is deducted from the officer who was responsible for the delay. Hence there is no financial outgo to the Government. Only the Minister concerned can waive off the deduction from the officers in exceptional circumstances.
The Government also intends to reward well performing staff by creating a service performance award and a handsome reward will be given to Government staff who provide citizen services consistently on time. The Government feels that this step will enhance the morale of well performing Government officers.
In Section 1(1) the bill seeks to add the expression “Right to Services” to the short title of the existing Act of 2011, thus widening the ambit of the Act. Under S. 2(b), the expression “citizen related services’ include the services as specified in the Schedule.” Has been substituted with “Citizen related services’ include the services as prescribed by the Citizens’ Charters issued in terms of section 3(2) of this Act.” Section 2(c) redefines ‘competent officer’ as the officer or officers so designated under section 9 of the act as such by the administrative in-charge or Head of the Department for the purpose of effecting payment of compensation to the citizen, recovery of the compensation from the officer or person responsible and for other purposes as prescribed in this act or as may be prescribed by the Government, whereas under S. 2(f), the expression Government has been considerably shortened to mean “Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.” and the Lieutenant Governor has been defined by a new insertion of S. 2(f)(i) and S.2(g)(i) defines Head of the Department.
Among other provisions, the Bill prioritizes each government department to put out a “comprehensive citizens charter” within 30 days of its notification, the adoption of the Delhi government’s e-district portal to ensure the transparent and time-bound delivery of citizen-related services within the prescribed time limit and affixing responsibility for delayed discharge of services with Heads of government Departments (HODs).
The development of the new law, however, isn’t all too negative for government officials since the amendments also envisage a service performance incentive fund to encourage officials to deliver on time by offering them cash rewards.
These amendments will predictably act as a catalyst to convert the services to electronic mode and the Government is committed to make it a reality at the earliest.