After being the first state to implement the Right to Information Act, Rajasthan has taken the lead in executing another far-reaching legislation, which entitles citizens swift legal remedy to their grievances over government services.
The Right to Hearing Act, 2012, entered the statute book Aug 1 to complement another of the state's legislations on governance with accountability and transparency: the Public Services Guarantee Act, which already covers 153 services of 18 departments.
"The act in itself is unique and aims to ensure all complaints of the common man with regard to governance are addressed and disposed in a time-bound manner," said Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in whose previous tenure right to information became law.
Under the new act, all government officials will be bound to dispose complaints within a stipulated time period. Provision has been made for taking action against officials who show slackness in this matter, an official spokesperson said in a recent statement.
"If officials are careless, an amount of Rs.500 to Rs.5,000 can be deducted from their salaries with disciplinary action," the spokesperson said, adding it was part of Chief Minister Gehlot's desire for "sensitive, transparent and accountable governance".
Officials said people in the state already feel empowered and point out that out of more than 57 lakh complaints that were received since the Public Services Guarantee Act, as many as 56.33 lakh had already been disposed.
Following are the main points of the Right to Hearing Act:
-Citizens will get the chance for hearing their grievance near their residence
-They will be heard at the gram panchayat, tehsil, sub-division or district level
-For this, public hearing officers and appellate authorities have been formed
-It is mandatory to hear the complaints and dispose them within a stipulated time
-The complainant has the right to appeal up to two levels, if not satisfied
-Public hearing officers have to dispose off the complaint within 15 days
-If the complaint is rejected, the reason must be stated in writing
-First appeal can be registered against the decision of public hearing officer
-This has to be disposed of within 21 days
-After this, a provision has been made for a second appeal
"It has been the chief minister's desire that relief is provided at very point where grievances originate," a top official said, referring to the provision for public hearing officers and appellate authorities at panchayat, tehsil, sub-block and district level.
"This seeks to give both immediate relief and satisfaction to complainants, brings down the time taken in disposing of the cases and also reduces costs by trying to minimise the need to go to the state level."