Grievance redress bill draft lacking on several fronts: NCPRI to govt

'Draft bill weal on compensation, single window clearance system, and days taken for redressal of grievance'

brajesh

Brajesh Kumar | November 16, 2011



The grievance redress bill put up by the government for public consultations and feedback some two weeks ago has invited criticism on several counts from the civil society group National Campaign for People’s Right Information (NCPRI).

“We find the draft bill lacking on several fronts like compensation, single window clearance system, and days taken for redressal of grievance,” Aruna Roy, the founding member of NCPRI, said Wednesday.

NCPRI has written to the government about the differences it has with the draft bill. “We have met the officials concerned and conveyed them our objections to some of the provisions of the bill,” she said.

Listed below are the key points raised by NCPRI:

- Need to specify that for all district and sub-district grievances and complaints, the heads of department would be designated at the district level.

- There needs to  be an integrated block/ward level people’s support centre that has a single window approach for all local level public authorities and that is directly under the control of the state/central commission. There also needs to be an independent appellate authority at the district level i.e. the district grievance redressal authority (DGRA), again under the state/central commission.

- The draft bill proposes that the grievance redressal officer must dispose of grievances within 15 days. We propose that any matter that is not disposed of satisfactorily within the prescribed time-frame by the GRO will automatically be escalated to the HoD at the district level of the department concerned. This will give the district officials an opportunity to ensure the redress the grievance before it goes to the DGRA. If the district HoD fails to provide an action taken report within the additional 15 days time-frame, he along with the GRO and the public officials against whom the original complaint was filed could be penalised by the DGRA for the failure to carry out his responsibilities. This whole process will be tracked by the independent people’s support centre at the block level. The cumulative one month period will be internal and automatic without complainant having to take the complaint to the next level.

- There appears to be no provisions for compensating the aggrieved party for deficiency in services. This needs to be introduced and linked as appropriate to the imposable penalties on the defaulters. However compensation must be paid by the public authority and subsequently recovered from the defaulter. No compensation that involves a sum of maximum Rs 10,000 could be appealed against. Where compensation is greater than Rs 10,000, Rs 10,000 will be awarded and rest can be appealed against.

- The citizen’s charter should be renamed citizen’s charter and statement of obligation. The central/ state commission should have power to review these and give directions, where required, without prescribing the functions of the public authority, but to ensure that these functions have been properly reflected in the citizens charter and statement of obligation. For the purpose of the draft bill, the provisions of section 4(1)b of the RTI Act should be codified and become mandatory as a part of the citizens charter and obligation of statement.
 

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