Kerala introduces law on right to services

A landmark legislation that guarantees delivery of government services to citizens within a specified timeframe was introduced in the legislative assembly in Kerala.

By T K Devasia

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Published: Wed 25 Jul 2012, 12:22 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:35 AM

The Kerala Right to Service Bill 2012 piloted by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was later referred to the Subject Committee for scrutiny. He said that it will be passed during the ongoing session of the assembly itself.

After enactment of the law, services provided by all the government departments, local self-government institutions, state public sector undertakings and other statutory bodies will be the citizen’s right, Chandy added.

In the first phase, 13 government services and nine services related to police department will come under the purview of the legislation, which provides for action, including a penalty, against the designated officer if he fails to provide the service within the time frames. The fine ranges from Rs500 to Rs5,000.

Certificates of birth, death, denomination of caste, income, domicile; power connection to households and commercial shops; domestic water connections; issue of ration cards are among government services covered by the draft bill. The services related to police department include receipts to complaints filed with police; issue of copy of FIR; police intervention in grievous crimes; time-bound verification of passport and employment status; issue of copy of post-mortem report; and releasing vehicles under custody.

According to the draft bill, a designated officer should provide or reject an application he receives from the citizens within the time limit, which will start from the day he receives the application. In case of rejection, the officer will be required to state in writing the reasons for it.

The proposed Right to Services Act provides for a two-tier appellate system to redress grievances. The two appellate authorities will have the powers of a civil court in matters of requiring production and inspection of documents, issuing summons for hearing the designated officer and the appellant and any other matter that may be prescribed.

The bill in a nutshell makes government servants answerable in terms of their functions, duties, commitments and obligations towards the people.

The legislation is similar to the Right to Information Act, which gives every citizen of India the right to know about any government affairs from any government offices, except those information which affects national security. Kerala is the 13th state to introduce the right to services legislation.

Madhya Pradesh was the first state to enact the law. Since then several other states like Bihar, Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand have introduced similar legislation.

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