At last, a law that moves files from a babu’s desk
Although this is old news and not directly related to RTI, I am just posting it here in the News section since many members from Maharashtra might not be aware of such a Act. It will be of tremendous help to them in matters related to RTI.
Is anyone aware of any similar Act in the Centre or any other State ?
At last, a law that moves files from a babu’s desk
Thanks to relentless efforts of social activist Anna Hazare, Maharashtra has taken a progressive step in enacting a legislation specifying deadlines for movement of files in a government office and final disposal of a citizen’s matter. The legislation also regulates transfers of government employees. No longer, hopefully, a Bhatia will be moved out of the municipal commissioner’s chair in just one week nor will a clerk remain glued to his chair for two decades.
You can now reasonably hope that your files to move faster from the babu’s desk. There is now a law in place in Maharashtra that sets a rather stiff deadline for disposal of files at various levels in government offices. The law, ‘Maharashtra Government Servants Regulation of Transfers and Prevention of Delay in Discharge of Official Duties Act, 2005’’, as the nomenclature proclaims also regulates transfers of all government employees, mandating that a person normally not be transferred, apart from exceptional circumstances, unless having completed the standard tenure of three years in a position.
This is the law that social activist Anna Hazare had been vigorously chasing for the past half a decade. He managed to get the government promulgate an ordinance in August 2003 that was never enforced and was conveniently allowed to lapse. Now at last we have a piece of legislation adopted by the legislature, having received the governor’s assent and notified in a gazette dated May 12, 2006.
Even this piece hasn’t technically come in force yet. It will need another gazette notification with rules and that is expected by July. But keep your fingers crossed. One never knows the ways of the government.
The Act has two parts - first regulating transfers of employees and second setting deadlines for disposal of files.
Movement of files
Let us first know what the second part has to say. After all, movement of files concerns all of us most.
The Act says: ‘‘.normally no file shall remain pending with any government servant in the department or office for more than seven working days.’’ (Section 10).
As for immediate and urgent files, the disposal shall be ‘‘as per the urgency of the matter, as expeditiously as possible’’ and ‘‘preferably’’ the immediate file will move ‘‘in one day or next morning and the urgent file in four days’’. This is about the movement of the file from one desk. What about the final disposal of the matter?
The same section (10) provides:
In respect of files not required to be referred to any other department, decision and necessary action will be taken within 45 days and In respect of files that need to be referred to other departments, the decision and necessary action shall be taken within three months.
Not bad, one must say. Today, a decision on your matter gets stuck with a department for an agonizingly much longer unspecified period. This does not apply to files (Section 11)
Cases involving major policy decisions; Cases referred to Lokayukta or Upa-Lokayukta and other Constitutional institutions, Commissions etc; Cases related to Central or other State governments; Sub-judice and quasi-judicial matters.
No mandate has any value unless there is a provision penalising defaulters.
One would have liked to see more stringent penalty spelt out in the Act, which in the present form lays down:
Section 10 (2): provides that any ‘‘wilful or intentional delay or negligence in the discharge of official duties or in carrying out the official work assigned or pertaining to’’ a government servant ‘‘shall amount to dereliction of official duties and shall make such government servant liable for appropriate disciplinary action under the Maharashtra Civil Services (discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1979, or any other relevant disciplinary rules applicable to such employees.’’
Section 10 (3): says that the ‘‘concerned competent authority’’ will take action ‘‘on noticing or being brought to the notice any such dereliction of duties’’ by the employee and this will comprise a) disciplinary action against such defaulting employee under the ‘‘relevant disciplinary rules’’ and b) possible adverse entry in the employee’s annual confidential report.
Further safeguard is provided in Section 12 that says: ‘‘within 12 months from the date of coming into effect of the Act, the government will set up a mechanism for carrying out its administrative audit to see that the provisions under the Act are observed.’’
Section 9 mandates all heads of offices or departments to publish ‘‘within one year from the date of the commencement of this Act’’, detailed information on powers delegated to subordinate officers. This has to get updated and published again on April 1 of every succeeding year.
And in addition to regulating the movement of files, the Act now makes it obligatory for all departments to come out within six months with its own ‘citizen charter’ spelling out what it promises to citizens at large. Failing this, the head of the offices and departments will face ‘‘action mentioned in the relevant Act, rules or regulations.’’
Movement of employees:
Let us now acquaint with the provisions regulating transfers of government employees.
Section 3 (1) says that for All India Services Officers and those belonging to Groups A, B, C (meaning, Class 1, 2 and 3 employees apart from central services officers) ‘‘the normal tenure in a post shall be three years’’.
Section 4 (1): ‘‘No government servant shall ordinarily be transferred unless he has completed his tenure of posting as provided in Section 3’’.
Employees in Group D (class four) ‘‘shall normally not be subjected to fixed tenure [Section 3 (2)] They shall not be transferred out from the station where they are serving except on request ‘‘when a clear vacancy exists at the station where posting is sought, or on mutual transfer, or when a substantiated complaint of serious nature is received against them.’’
This is the benchmark. Now comes the qualification and perhaps dilution.
Group C employees in ‘‘non-secretariat services’’ (that is, not serving in Mantralaya) will be transferred from the post after two full tenures (of three years each) to ‘‘another office or department’. So if the provisions of Act are strictly followed, you should no longer see a babu in the same post for more than six years.
However, if he is serving in Mantralaya, the employee ‘‘shall not be continued in the same post for more than three years and shall not be continued in the same department for more than two consecutive tenures (of three years) [Section 3 (1)].
Section 3 has a speed breaker in Section 4 (5): The competent authority may, in ‘‘special cases’’, after recording reasons in writing and with the prior permission of the immediately preceding competent transferring authority, transfer a government servant before completion of his tenure of post.
And also in Section 5 (2): ‘‘...to ensure that the government work is not adversely affected on account of large scale transfers of government servants from one single department or office, not more than 30 per cent of the employees shall be transferred from any office or department at a time, in a year.’’
The standard three-year tenure can be extended ‘‘in exceptional cases’’ when the employee due for transferhas less than one year for retirement; possesses special technical qualifications or experience for the particular job and a suitable replacement is not immediately available; and is working on a project that is in the last stage of completion, and his withdrawal will seriously jeopardise its timely completion. (Section 5)
The transfers will be effected ‘‘ordinarily’’ ‘‘only once a year in the month of April or May’’.
But liberty will be taken with this norm
if there is a newly created post or when a post becomes vacant if the competent authority is satisfied that ‘‘the transfer is essential due to exceptional circumstances or special reasons, after recording the same in writing and with the prior permission of the next higher authority.’’ (Section 4)
There isn’t any change in the present arrangement of competent transferring authorities.
For officers of All India Services and senior officers of state services in Group A on the pay-scale 10,650-15,850 and above, the chief minister sanctions the transfer;
Minister-in-charge will transfer all officers of state services in Group A on pay-scales less than Rs 10,650-15850 and all officers in Group B (class two) in consultation with secretaries of the concerned department.
Divisional heads, however, will be free to transfer them within the division and the district head within the district. Employees in Group C will be transferred by heads of department and those in D by regional heads of departments.