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Recent Anti-Corruption Government Resolution (GR) Gives RTI Activists Huge Powers In Maharashtra .

16 April 2011 No Comment

Here is something what the RTI Activists can Cheer for as per Krishnaraj Rao, RTI Activists often ask in despair, “After RTI, what? Even if you get documents to expose a corrupt official, what can you do with this information? Who will entertain your complaint?” This is a key question.

A Right to Information application will at best reveal the documents that show that a corrupt officer or employee is unduly favouring someone, breaking rules, deliberately delaying matters etc. But what will you do with those papers? Who will take action on a complaint from an RTI Activist?

True, one can try for departmental enquiry and disciplinary action, but everybody knows what an uphill task that is. We all have experienced the obstacles that the administration puts in our path – even if we have clear black-and-white evidence.

And so the one and only solution is the Jan-Lokpal Bill, right? And until this comes along, we just have to wait and watch, right?

Wrong!

There is now a mechanism available to people all over Maharashtra. If we use it, it will put the fear of God into hundreds of corrupt government servants, both big and small. Read about the detailed mechanism brought into existence by this Government Resolution (GR), which was passed on 4th February 2011.

Or from here: http://tinyurl.com/Maha-Corrupt-Eradication-Act

[The yellow highlighted parts in this file are notes from me to you. Otherwise, this file contains a nearly exact translation.]

Whom should we thank for this excellent and progressive piece of rule-making. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is, Prithviraj Chavan and Anna Hazare. So, three cheers for Prithviraj Chavan and Anna Hazare: Hip-hip-hurray! Jai Maharashtra! Jai Hind!

Look at this GR’s marvelous features:

1)      Can punish the smallest government servant to the most powerful IAS officer & top-cop. This GR makes no exceptions for anybody. Corruption, undue delays and dereliction of duty will be punished, no matter who commits it. It confers sweeping powers on the common man, who can submit written complaints as well as oral submissions before the Corruption Eradication Committees.

2)      Creates multi-layered anti-corruption structure geographically & administratively spread throughout Maharashtra. This GR mandates the establishment of Committees and Vigilance Squads for Eradication of corruption at Divisional, District and Taluka levels. It sets up a multi-layered Corruption Control-cum-Grievance Redressal mechanism that is geographically dispersed in rural and urban Maharashtra, and spread over different levels of the State administration — from the Taluka level up to Mantralaya.

3)      Consolidation of many anti-corruption & anti-delay GRs. This GR consolidates ten anti-corruption and delay prevention government circulars (GRs) issued between 1996 and 2009. Those 10 old GRs are now cancelled, having been given effect in this one single GR.

4)      Accessible & friendly for common man. It establishes a mechanism for accepting written complaints and hearing oral submissions at places that are reasonably close to accessible for the common man i.e. Taluka headquarters, District headquarters and Divisional headquarters. Also, it is supposed to hear not only allegations of corruption, but also those concerning undue delay, irregularities, favouritism etc.

5)      Not top-heavy; Spreads the onus for action evenly throughout the administration. It spreads out authority on several ex-officio heads of department such as Deputy Registrar of Cooperative Societies, Superintendent of Police Anti-Corruption Bureau and Chief Engineer PWD. These people bring domain knowledge of the specific field concerning the complaint. They understand the ground realities, and, unlike judges sitting in High Courts, Vigilance Commissions or Lokayukta’s offices, they can go to the spot. It also introduces 5 to 10 civil society watchdog members in each committee. Thus, it is not top-heavy. (One badly-selected Information Commissioner can jam up the RTI system for five years because he has no pressure to perform. But one badly-selected member of Corruption Eradication Committee cannot do the same, because this GR puts pressure on him to perform, like a gun to his head! If he fails to act in 90 days, the complainant can escalate the matter to the next level, and disciplinary proceedings will be recommended against the delaying member of the Corruption Eradication Committee or Vigilance Squad!)

6)      System for taking cognizance of Information received under RTI, or from whistleblowers. Specific mention of Right to Information is made in point no. 7.  However, it also gives scope for administration insiders to blow the whistle on negligent or corrupt superiors and colleagues.

7)      Ends in Departmental Enquiry & Disciplinary Action. Wherever guilt is established – not only for corruption, but even for undue delay and other kinds of breach of Maharashtra Civil Service Rules — the case lands in the lap of the Competent Authority for that particular officer. This is the government authority empowered to hold departmental enquiries and initiate disciplinary action. Thus, the punishment (unlike an RTI penalty) will have a lasting impact on the career of officers found guilty.

8)      Ample internal checks & balances. The GR puts the onus of investigation and evidence-collection on Vigilance Squads, which consists of A group and B group officers at each district level. These officers are supposed to work under the supervision of the concerned Corruption Eradication Committee. If Vigilance Squad members don’t function properly, or if they become corrupt or drag their feet on some cases, etc., the GR defines 90-day deadlines for investigation and reporting. If deadlines are crossed, the complaint can automatically get escalated to the next higher level, making the corrupt squad members, and also corrupt committee members, eligible for departmental enquiry and disciplinary action.

9)      Gives teeth to all existing Rules & Laws (State & Central), and thereby gives teeth to the common man. Maharashtra’s Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act [Read: http://tinyurl.com/Maha-Delay-Prevention-Act ] is specifically mentioned in the GR. So is the Maharashtra Civil Services Rules 1979 (Amended 2008) http://tinyurl.com/MahaCivilServicesRules . However, there are many other rules, laws and guidelines – too numerous to name here. This GR implicitly gives the citizen power to invoke any of these while making a complaint and oral submission!

10)  Includes feedback mechanism for complainant. This GR contains provisions that make it necessary for the Committee or Squad to get back to the complainant with its findings and reports – whether guilty or not-guilty.

11)  No time limits! People, bring out your old RTI documents showing corruption, undue delays, irregularities, frauds etc. This GR mandates that the Committees and Squads must entertain them, even if one or two years have passed. Because no time-limits are specified for your complaint.

 

It goes without saying that We, the People of Maharashtra, will have to exercise our ownership of this Corruption Eradication GR in the same way as we have done for the Right to Information Act. Our participation is like the blood running through the veins of all legislations; if we don’t exercise the many rights that this GR gives us, then this system will not come to life. On the other hand, I am fully hopeful if we wake up to this opportunity, and start filing complaints with the relevant Corruption Eradication Committee, we can enliven this system and make it respond to the valid concerns of every citizen.

Personally, Rao believes that this GR has the potential to add tremendous power to the RTI Act in Maharashtra, clean up the administration and serve as a role-model for the rest of India.

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