New Bill for RTI
Posted by rtiact2005 on September 8, 2006
NEW DELHI: In a bid to give fillip to the Right to Information (RTI) Act and bring errant government officials to book, Delhi is preparing a new legislation — Delhi Public Grievances Act 2006.
The draft bill, which is likely to be introduced in the next Assembly session, attempts to give more teeth to the Public Grievances Commission (PGC) — the appellate body for RTI.
The legislation will make the commission a statutory body and will bring many administrative changes to help in checking corrupt practices and harassment by government officials.
At present, PGC is a non-statutory body comprising one chairman and three members (one full-time and two part-time members).
It addresses grievances of the people and hears appeals under the Delhi RTI Act 2001. However, the government takes a long time in the implementation of the commission’s decisions or recommendations and can even reduce the quantum of punishment.
If the government ignores PGC’s recommendations, which it has regularly been doing, the commission has no powers to take any action.
The new legislation aims at making PGC a statutory body. This would give the commission powers of a civil court. It would be able to summon any officer on a complaint of the common man and order production of government records.
PGC chairman Baleshwar Rai said: “The draft legislation is ready. We have incorporated the suggestions made by the law department. Now we will send it to Delhi government. Through this legislation we have aimed at giving more powers to the commission for effective grievance redressal of the common man.”
The draft Bill empowers the commission to levy heavy penalties if there is delay or violation of its directions. PGC, under the legislation, levies a fine of Rs 250 per day extending to a maximum of Rs 10,000 on an officer for dereliction of duty or even harassment.
Even civic bodies, corporations or departments can be directed to pay damages to an individual in case they are found violating rules or causing harassment. The draft Bill lays down that PGC would review grievance redressal system of different departments at least twice a year.
One of the biggest changes proposed would be in the administrative set-up. The draft has tried to nudge out retired bureaucrats from PGC.
So far, there has been a tradition to post retired bureaucrats as the chairman and members. The draft says that any public servant would be given the responsibility of PGC.
The commission would be headed by a chairman. It would have a member secretary and three full-time members. They would have a fixed tenure of three years, unlike the present members who can serve till the age of 65 years.
If the Bill comes through in its present form, PGC would not be dependent on Delhi government for its day-to-day budget. It would be given an annual grant, which will be earmarked at the beginning of the financial year.
It would also have an annual accounting and auditing system.