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Here's a lion sleeping in rule book

Thursday, 15 May 2014 - 7:22am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Former former central information commissioner Sailesh Gandhi throws light on a lesser-known law that can be used to make babus accountable for their work

There is a very powerful law in Maharashtra that can empower citizens if used effectively. Lokadhikar (a collective of many activists) calls it the Right To Services Act, whereas some people call it the Transfers & Delays Act.

Its actual name is a mouthful: 'Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act (Act 21 of 2006)'. The first part –Chapter 2- specifies that government servants must have a tenure of three years and should normally be transferred only in April or May. If this is violated reasons must be given.

Citizens can use this to curb arbitrary transfers of good officers like Khemka or Pardeshi by seeking the reasons using the RTI Act. Better still they can insist that the reasons must be displayed on the website as per a recent order issued in Vijay Kumbhar's case by Shri Ratnakar Gaikwad Chief Information Commissioner of the State.

Section 8 mandates that all departments must publish a citizen's charter, which should identify the services provided to the citizens along with the timeframe in which the service should be provided.

This charter must be updated every year. If citizens press for getting this implemented, it would make their dealings with government departments easier and result in making babus accountable.

Section 10 effectively says that no decision on any file can take more than 45 days if a matter has to be decided within the department, and not more than 90 days where other departments have to be consulted.

Rule 10 (3) [64C for BMC] along with the rules require the competent authority to do a preliminary investigation within 15 working days and take disciplinary action if negligence is established. Many citizens find that when they make applications for certain services or for some corrections or make a complaint or representation to government bodies they get no response.

If an application/complaint/representation has received no response for over 90 days and a citizen brings it to the notice of the competent authority (secretary of the department), the secretary is obliged to take steps to fix responsibility for dereliction of duty.

This Act has the potential of bringing accountability in governance if citizens use it widely. RTI succeeded because citizens used it extensively. If people use this law every time there is no response within the time given in the Act, we will get a change. We have the power, we need to exercise it.

Format to follow
If you have received no response to your application/complaint/representation in Maharashtra for over 90 days, please send a letter on the following lines to the secretary of the department:

I had given my application for……….. on ………. (copy enclosed). Since then I have received no communication. I would like to draw your attention to Section 10 of the Transfers and Delays Act 21 of 2006/ (64C of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act) which mandates that no decision can be kept pending for over 3 months. In the instant case, no decision has been communicated to me despite the lapse of…… months. I request you to conduct a preliminary enquiry within 15 days as per rule 3 (6) to fix responsibility on the officers responsible for this delay and take appropriate disciplinary action against them. I request that the report of the enquiry may please be sent to me. I look forward to your early action in the above matter.

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