Public Service Guarantee Act 2010, a Historic Step for Clean Governance. By Fr. Anand Muttungal

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Public Service Guarantee Act 2010 is the first-of-its-kind in the country. I think that it is the historic victory of the people in Madhya Pradesh. It has thrown a challenge to the State Governments and Central Government which finds it difficult to amend the constitutional safeguards provided to the high ranking public servants in India. The Act unanimously passed in the Assembly, (30th July 2010), is a stepping stone to have clean governance.
The Act guarantees delivery of time bound services to common people, failing which officials will have to pay a fine. In case, citizens fail to get services on time, ‘they could make an appeal to first and second appellate officers, who would give instructions to the officers concerned. If there is a delay, the officers would have to pay a fine of Rs 250 per day, with a maximum of Rs 5,000.’ If first appellate officer fails to ensure delivery of services without valid reason, he, too, would have to pay a fine amounting minimum Rs 500 and maximum at Rs 5,000. There would be a fixed time as to how many days an officer is entitled keep a file.
The officer who receives a file has to give a receipt to the applicant. The time limit begins from that date onwards. There is also provision to initiate disciplinary action against the errant official. What is most important of the bill is that most common man’s public services like birth certificate, caste domicile certificates, khasra copies, tap-water supply connections etc are listed and their timely service guaranteed. The Government promises that soon the office of the Chief Minister and Ministers too will be brought under the preview of the legislation in future. It would indeed empower the citizen to demand their right to have time bound services. If it is implemented in true spirit, then Chief Minister will be entered into the History of India and never to be forgotten by common people.
The cancerous corruption has engulfed the society as a whole. People have lost faith in the government. The recent raids at people of high ranking officials and business magnets by various agencies of Centre and State have created a fear among them. So bribery seems to be reducing at top level. The Government officers declaring their assets every year too has helped a lot in the fight against corruption. But the corruption that begins from fifty rupees to lakhs in the lower level is still flourishing. It has affected the whole administrative system and posting of officers. In usual case delay is the common tactic which most of the public servants do to bargain their rate. The present “Public Service Guarantee Act 2010” has tried to plug this opening of corruption. We believe that if this act is implemented in true spirit then corruption can be controlled.
We probably have not thought of the root of corruption. It is nothing but the constitutional safeguards provided to the high ranking public servants. The Article 310 and 311 gives protection to the civil servants. Under section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, “it is necessary for the prosecuting authority to have the previous sanction of the appropriate administrative authority for launching prosecution against a public servant… No court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under section 7, 10, 11, 13 and 15 alleged to have been committed by a public servant, except with the previous sanction.”
1n 2009 former Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan in his speech in a seminar pointed out that the root cause of corruption is the procedural delays like granting sanction to take action against corrupt officials. Veerappa Moily, Law Minister, says that the Sanathanam Committee on prevention of corruption that the court interpretation of Article 311 has made it difficult to deal with corrupt civil servants. If we are to believe all of them then why do we not ask to change such systems that provides eternal shelter to the cancer of the society. We must ask for our fundamental right to live in a corruption free society. Long live our Babus who stop any such move to amend the constitutional safeguards!

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