New Delhi: In a bid for greater transparency and accountability in the government's delivery systems for citizens, the union cabinet Thursday approved a bill that will ensure public services like passports, birth and death certificates, driving licences and ration cards are issued within the specified periods.
The Right of Citizens for Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011, was approved at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
"The bill has been approved, in principle, by the cabinet," an official said.
The bill, which deals with sections of government having direct interface with citizens, provides for public authorities publishing a citizen's charter that details the services and the quality of services to be provided and timelines of delivery.
Such authorities include constitutional bodies, statutory authorities, public-private partnerships, NGOs that are substantially funded by the government and companies that provide service under a statutory obligation.
The bill imposes penalty of Rs.250 per day subject to a maximum of Rs.50,000 on officials failing in timely delivery of services.
Officials said the draft bill would go back to the ministries of law, home affairs and personnel and training as it required fresh paraphrasing. However, the bill need not go to the cabinet again and can be directly tabled in parliament, they added.
Once passed by parliament, the bill will be binding on the states.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) however slammed the decision saying it was an intrusion in domain of states.
"The cabinet decision clearing the bill is a direct intrusion on the domain of states as it becomes mandatory for all states to adopt the same act," BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said.
More than 10 states including Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh have their own citizen service guarantee bills in place and many state legislations had provisions that were much better than the proposed central act, he added.
The bill, which had been introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and was later considered by the standing committee, mandates public authority to establish a customer care centre, help desk and other support systems to ensure time-bound delivery of services.
It also seeks establishment of public grievance redressal commission at the centre and state levels.
Officials said the provisions of the bill allow a grievance redressal commission to refer a case for investigation by the Lokpal if there is evidence of corruption in delayed delivery of services.
They said the legislation would prove more effective in tackling corruption at the grassroots than the Lokpal bill, which was drafted after protests by civil society activists led by social Anna Hazare.