- The main objective of the exercise to issue the Citizen’s Charter of an organisation is to improve standard, quality and time frame of service delivery, grievance redress mechanism, transparency and accountability.
- This is done by letting people know the mandate of the concerned Ministry/ Department/ Organisation, how one can get in touch with its officials, what to expect by way of services and how to seek a remedy if something goes wrong.
- The Citizen’s Charter does not by itself create new legal rights, but it surely helps in enforcing existing rights.
Fist time, the UK’s Citizen’s Charter initiative aroused considerable interest around the world and several countries implemented similar programmes.
Citizen Charter By Government of India:
Over the years, in India, significant progress has been made in the field of economic development. This, along with a substantial increase in the literacy rate has made Indian citizens increasingly aware of their rights. Citizens have become more articulate and expect the administration not merely to respond to their demands but also to anticipate them. It was in this climate that since 1996 a consensus had evolved in the Government on effective and responsive administration.
In a Conference of Chief Ministers of various States and Union Territories held on 24 May, 1997 in New Delhi, presided over by the Prime Minister of India, an “Action Plan for Effective and Responsive Government” at the Centre and State levels was adopted. One of the major decisions at that Conference was that the Central and State Governments would formulate Citizen’s Charters, starting with those sectors that have a large public interface (e.g., Railways, Telecom, Posts, Public Distribution Systems). These Charters were required to include standards of service and time limits that the public can reasonably expect avenues of grievance redress and a provision for independent scrutiny with the involvement of citizen and consumer groups.
- Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India, in its efforts to provide more responsive and citizen-friendly governance coordinates the efforts to formulate and operationalise Citizens’ Charters. Various Central Government Ministries/ Departments/ Organisations have brought out their Citizens’ Charters.
- With a view to ensure effective implementation of Citizens’ Charter, Nodal Officers have been appointed in the concerned Central Government Ministries/ Departments/ Organisations.
- Similar process can be adopted by State Governments or any other organization.
Primarily an adaptation of the UK model, the Indian Citizen’s Charter has an additional component of ‘expectations from the clients’ or in other words ‘obligations of the users’.
- GOOD GOVERNANCE: Transparency + Accountability + Citizen Friendliness => Citizen’s Charter.
- Good Governance is the Technology Citizen’s Charter is the Tool
The spirit behind the Citizen’s Charter:
- A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us; we are dependent on him. He is not an interruption on our work; he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider on our business; he is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him; he is doing a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so. (Mahatma Gandhi)
What is a Citizen’s Charter?
- Citizen’s Charter is a document which represents a systematic effort to focus on the commitment of the Organisation towards its Citizens in respects of Standard of Services, Information, Choice and Consultation, Non-discrimination and Accessibility, Grievance Redress, Courtesy and Value for Money.
- This also includes expectations of the Organisation from the Citizen for fulfilling the commitment of the Organisation.
Who is a ‘Citizen’ with reference to Citizen’s Charter?
- The term ‘Citizen’ in the Citizen’s Charter implies the clients or customers whose interests and values are addressed by the Citizen’s Charter and, therefore, includes not only the citizens but also all the stakeholders, i.e., citizens, customers, clients, users, beneficiaries, other Ministries/ Departments/ Organisations, State Governments, UT Administrations etc.
What Citizens Expect From Government Departments/Service Providers:
- Reliability, i.e., consistency in performance.
- Responsiveness, i.e., timely service.
- Credibility i.e., having customer interest at heart.
- Empathy, i.e., attention to customer’s needs.
- Courtesy and care, i.e., physical evidence of willingness to serve
The principles of the Citizen’s Charter:
- Quality: Improving the quality of services;
- Choice: Providing choice wherever possible;
- Standards: Specify what to expect and how to act if standards are not met;
- Value: Add value for the taxpayers’ money;
- Accountability: Be accountable to individuals and organisations; and
- Transparency: Ensure transparency in Rules/Procedures/Schemes/Grievances.
These were later elaborated by the Labour Government of UK as following nine principles of Service Delivery (1998):
- Set standards of service
- Be open and provide full information
- Consult and involve
- Encourage access and the promotion of choice
- Treat all fairly
- Put things right when they go wrong
- Use resources effectively
- Innovate and improve
- Work with other provider
Whether Ministries/ Departments/ Agencies of State Governments and UT Administrations are also required to formulate Citizen’s Charters?
- Citizen’s Charter initiative not only covers the Central Government Ministries/ Departments/ Organisations but also the Departments/ Agencies of State Governments and UT Administrations.
- Various Departments/ Agencies of many State Governments and UT Administrations have brought out their Charters. More than 600 Citizen’s Charters have so far been issued by Agencies/ Organisations of 24 States/ Union Territories.
Whether Citizen’s Charter is legally enforceable?
- No. The Citizen’s Charter is not legally enforceable and, therefore, is non-justiciable. However, it is a tool for facilitating the delivery of services to citizens with specified standards, quality and time frame etc. with commitments from the Organisation and its clients
What is the role of Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances in Citizen’s Charter Initiative in the Government?
- Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances in Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Government of India, in its efforts to provide more responsive and citizen-friendly governance, coordinates the efforts to formulate and operationalise Citizen’s Charters in Central Government, State Governments and UT Administrations.
- It provides guidelines for formulation and implementation of the Charters as well as their evaluation.
What are the components a good Citizen’s Charter should have?
- Vision and Mission Statement of the Organisation
- Details of Business transacted by the Organisation
- Details of ‘Citizens’ or ‘Clients’
- Statement of services including standards, quality, time frame etc. provided to each Citizen/ Client group separately and how/ where to get the services
- Details of Grievance Redress Mechanism and how to access it
- Expectations from the ‘Citizens’ or ‘Clients’
- Additional commitments such as compensation in the event of failure of service delivery.
How I should any organisation formulate its own Citizen’s Charter? Give the road map.
- Setting up of a Task Force in the Organisation to formulate the Citizen’s Charter
- Identification of all stakeholders in the Organisation and major services provided by Organisation;
- Setting up of a Core Group in the Organisation consisting of representatives from all stakeholders which inter-alia may include Top Management, Middle Management, cutting-edge level, staff representatives, strategic partners, Customers/ Clients etc.;
- The Core Group shall oversee the formulation of the Citizen’s Charter and approve it. It shall monitor its implementation thereafter.
- Consultation with Clients/ Stakeholders/ Staff (Primarily at cutting-edge level) and their representative associations;
- Preparation of Draft Citizen’s Charter: (a) Circulation for comments/ suggestions (b)Modification of Charter to include suggestions.
- Submission of draft Charter to Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances
- Consideration of the Charter by Core Group
- Modification of Charter by the Ministry/ Department on the basis of suggestions/ observations by the Core Group
- Approval by Minister-in-charge
- Formal issue/ release of Charter and putting up on website
- Sending copies to People’s Representatives and all stakeholders
- Appointment of a Nodal Officer to ensure effective implementation.
What are the do’s and don’ts for an Organisation in formulation and implementation of Citizen’s Charter?
The following lessons have been learnt from the experience to date of implementing Citizen’s Charter initiative:
- As with any new effort, the Citizen’s Charter initiative is bound to be looked at initially with skepticism by bureaucrats as well as citizens. An effective awareness campaign amongst all the stakeholders at the initial stage is essential to overcome this skepticism. These awareness campaigns should be designed and delivered innovatively and effectively.
- The issuance of Citizen’s Charter will not change overnight the mindset of the staff and the clients, developed over a period of time. Therefore, regular, untiring and persistent efforts are required to bring about the attitudinal changes.
- A new initiative always encounters barriers and misgivings from the staff. There is a natural resistance to change, particularly among the cutting-edge staff. Involving and consulting them at all the levels of formulation and implementation of Citizen’s Charter will go a long way in overcoming this resistance and will make them an equal partner in this exercise.
- Instead of trying to reform all the processes at once and encounter massive resistance, it is advisable to break it into small components and tackle them one at a time.
- The charter initiative should have an built-in mechanism for monitoring, evaluating and reviewing the working of the Charters, preferably through an outside agency.
The Right of Citizens for Time Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011 (Citizens Charter):
- This bill is also known as Citizens Charter Bill which was a proposed Indian central legislation.It was tabled by V. Narayanasamy, Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, in Lok Sabha in December 2011.
- Though the bill lapsed due to dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha, it provides us insight about how to improve service delivery in India and what are the key issues involved.
Highlights of the Bill:
- The Bill seeks to create a mechanism to ensure timely delivery of goods and services to citizens.
- Every public authority is required to publish a citizens charter within six months of the commencement of the Act. The Charter will detail the goods and services to be provided and their timelines for delivery.
- A citizen may file a complaint regarding any grievance related to: (a) citizens charter; (b) functioning of a public authority; or (c) violation of a law, policy or scheme.
- The Bill requires all public authorities to appoint officers to redress grievances. Grievances are to be redressed within 30 working days. The Bill also provides for the appointment of Central and State Public Grievance Redressal Commissions.
- A penalty of up to Rs 50,000 may be levied upon the responsible officer or the Grievance Redressal Officer for failure to render services.
Key Issues and Analysis:
- Parliament may not have the jurisdiction to regulate the functioning of state public officials as state public services fall within the purview of state legislatures.
- This Bill may create a parallel grievance redressal mechanism as many central and state laws have established similar mechanisms.
- Companies that render services under a statutory obligation or a licence may be required to publish citizens charters and provide a grievance redressal mechanism.
- The Commissioners may be removed without a judicial inquiry on an allegation of misbehaviour or incapacity. This differs from the procedure under other legislations.
- Appeals from the Commissions’ decisions on matters of corruption will lie before the Lokpal or Lokayuktas. The Lokpal and some Lokayuktas have not been established.
- Only citizens can seek redressal of grievances under the Bill. The Bill does not enable foreign nationals who also use services such as driving licenses, electricity, etc., to file complaints.