New Laws for 'Sushasit Goa'

By Cleofato A Coutinho
20 August 2012 20:10 IST

The report of the Goa Golden Development Council headed by Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar has, for the purpose of making Goa ‘Sushashit Goa’ or ‘Well Governed Goa’, has  called for giving highest priority to good governance and one of the areas short listed for good governance is improving public delivery mechanism.

The report lists out the difficulties when it comes to obtaining permissions, licenses etc. which necessarily involve cumbersome procedure and unwarranted delays. The report speaks about gifts or
informal payments for services like electrical connection, water connection, construction related permits, operating licenses and inspections by tax inspectors, labour officials and even police
officials.

The Right to Information Act brought in by the UPA government has set the tone of transparency in working of the all governments (that UPA Govt. has became the victim of RTI is a different matter altogether!!). The RTI Act has become a powerful tool in the hands of citizens.  A number of public interest litigations, media exposures etc. are now based upon Information obtained through the Right of Information Act. The Right to Information Act may have brought some sort of paralysis in the government decision making process but certainly it has ended the era of secrecy in the functioning of the government. In fact the Anna led demand for Lok Pal was preceded by such a demand by National Advisory Council and spearheaded by Aruna Roy. The RTI has been the precursor for the demand for accountability in Government.

The important aspect of the Right to Information Act is the time bound disposal of applications seeking information and penalty to officers who withhold Information without justification.  The success of the Right to Information Act has made the central government bring in the Right of citizens for time bound delivery of goods and services and redressal of their grievance bill 2011. The bill has been introduced in the Lok Sabha but it has not progressed further. It is realized that the system works faster if the bureaucrats are made accountable by statute and in case of dereliction of duty, punishment imposed upon fixing of responsibility.

The state of Delhi has enacted that Delhi Right of citizens to the Time Bound Delivery of Services Act 2011 which gives a citizen a Right to obtain citizen related services in Delhi within time bound period
and imposes a liability on the government servant to deliver services within the stipulated period and every government servant who fails to deliver the citizen related services are liable to pay costs. There is provision for payment of additional compensatory costs to the citizen in case the services are not provided as per the time frame set by law. There is a additional provision of fixing liability for payment of compensatory costs which amount can be recovered from the defaulting government servant after issuance of show cause notice. No government servant can pass the buck on their political master. The JE, AE and EE can no longer point out finger to the PWD Minister or the power minister in case of provision for water and electricity connection. The Motor Vehicle Inspector cannot point finger at the transport Minister. The Engineers, Inspectors are made liable and responsible personally.

By September 2011, the Delhi government finalized the list of 32 services to be included in the first list of the E-service level agreement or (E-Sla) which services were to be delivered by government officials within specific time frame. Some important services brought under time bound service are electricity connection, registration of eateries, issuance of ration cards, nationality, domicile, income certificates, driving licenses among others and by Dec. 2011 the Delhi government notified 70 services across 22 departments.  In fact the Delhi government plans to bring more such services within the time bound delivery of services Act. It is now proved beyond doubt that disposal of application for services is faster, due to penalty by clause and due to the provision of monitoring by citizen of his or her application online. The provisions of the delivery of services Act are deemed to be part of service condition of government servants. The responsibility is total and there is no escape.

There is no doubt that law is not panacea for all ills of administration. We are always reminded that our problem is not the laws but implementation of existing laws. For laws to be effective and implementable they also have to be innovative. RTI has shown the way and now the time bound delivery of services by the state is the new direction.  In times of accountability when all ethical acts and correct standards in administration are sought to be brought within the managing limits of do’s and don’ts such laws is the need of the hour. The Right to Information Act is a shining example as to how a opaque system of administration can be converted into a transparent system.

Goa is a small state and mattes like mutation application, construction licenses, driving licenses, police clearances applications for various certificates etc. etc. have played havoc with the Goa citizenry. Mutation files lie dormant for years with a fond hope that time shall bring the bounty to the Talathis and Mamlatdars. Citizens shout from roof tops that their files for construction licenses do not get necessary approvals while big housing schemes receive immediate nod and clearance. The Sub Registrar’s Office, the office of Town and Country Planning Department, the officer of Mamlatdar, Block Development Officer and all revenue offices along with the police stations are seen as dark patches in the area of administration. In most cases touts rule the roost. Enactments like the one brought in by the Delhi Government would be extremely beneficial. Along with the Right to Information Act it would bring in a new administrative revolution in the state of Goa.

Our administration has excellent infrastructure. The government administrative machinery which is otherwise said to be incompetent, ineffective and largely seen as corrupt functions in an excellent manner when it comes to the election time. In Goa and elsewhere in the country, that point has been proved again and again. Our administrative infrastructure in conducting election is second to none. The same collector, same Dy. Collector, same Mamlatdar and the same Talathi and the same police official functions in the manner that is effective and responsive to the need of the hour. All that is required is proper guidance to the officials and enforcement of accountability at all levels. Lack of accountability has made the system unresponsive and corrupt.

All that is required is enforcement of accountability. It is hoped that accountability shall come through the institution ‘Lokayukta’. (The Lokayukta has to be strengthened by statutory changes to make it in tune with present times and for the institution to inspire confidence and gain love and faith of the  eople). Lokayukta shall take are of big areas like distribution of state resources like mines, state contracts etc. while citizen related services by other laws. In case delivery of services is made enforceable in a time bound manner with penalty in case of failure, a new work culture in the functioning of the government shall develop and that shall also change the current mind set of getting services through speed money. Along with a strong Lokayukta and the Right to Information Act at Goa’s administrative infrastructure would rest on that the Golden triangle of statutes.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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