Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR) kept up its criticism of the Meghalaya Right to Public Services Act 2020, highlighting what it says are flaws in the legislation that was tabled in the Assembly last week.
It was on November 2 that the civic group called for a public consultation on the bill, which was dismissed out of hand by Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong on November 3. The following day the bill was tabled in the house.
The act is meant to punish civil servants who deny the public the right to timely services for which they are eligible.
However, TUR said today in a press release that the law is “fraught with the problems of conception and drafting”, brought about by its lack of public consultation and is “full of legal loopholes” that are “designed to frustrate citizens in redressing their grievances.”
Although the law speaks of ensuring timely provision of services, it does not speak about the quality of those services, TUR said in criticism.
Other issues it raised included that the law does not mandate that all public authorities come under this law’s purview but only those that the government notifies.
“This is dangerous,” the release stated. “For instance, will the Mining Department come under this law? Or the Public Works Department’s payment of a contractor’s bill or Planning Department or Tourism Department looking after a rural tourism project? The law is intentionally silent about such questions.”
TUR also doubted whether the fines for erring civil servants – Rs 5,000 for a first offence, Rs 20,000 for multiple offences – were enough of a deterrent.
Punishment under the act would be administered by the State Public Service Delivery Commission, a body that TUR says is non-independent and pliant because appointment to it is firmly under the thumb of the government. In contrast, selection under the Lokayukta Act and RTI Act both include the views of the leader of the opposition.
The commission is “in danger of becoming a space for political appointment or retirement benefit for bureaucrats,” TUR said, adding that it is shocking that the legislation does not specify how commission members who have been corrupt, for example, can be removed.