New Delhi: State government officials who fail to register or pursue complaints of crime or fraud will be punished “severely", Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar warned on Thursday.
As part of his effort to deliver good governance, Kumar said the Bihar Public Grievance Redressal Act, 2015, would be implemented from 1 May.
Government officials who ignore fraud or refuse to register complaints made by people against crime of any sort will be fined or dismissed from service.
In case of failure to hear and redress public grievances, the penalty will range from ₹ 500 to ₹ 5,000.
“We already have provisions that allow people to register complaints against officials who are not duty-bound but there are no proper rules and only a few cases are solved on time, most of the cases go on for forever. From May next year, such officers will be punished severely," Kumar told a meeting at the general administration department.
According to the law, passed by the Bihar legislative assembly in August, officers at all levels should be trained to redress grievances.
“Forms to be filled should be easily understandable so that a common man has no problem in filling it. At the district level, there should be a centralized call centre that registers complaints," said Kumar.
The new law envisages the electronic registration of complaints.
Kumar asked Bihar chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh to inform district-level officials that the law will be part of their review.
“The chief minister has introduced this Act to empower people to seek redressal of their grievances in a time-bound manner by government officials. The bill was passed earlier but rules had to be formed, which we discussed with him in a meeting held last week," said Singh. “We’ve been given instructions to make this Act a part of agenda list of all review meetings with district officials."
Explaining the rules for proceeding against government officials, Singh said that the first step would be to register a complaint with the public grievance redressal officer. If the complainant is not satisfied with the action taken, he or she can go to a higher officer or the appellate tribunal within 30 days. The accused government employee can move the appellate tribunal within 75 days.
The Act says government servants are duty-bound to dispose of grievances in a time-bound manner. Failure to do so will amount to misconduct for which the errant officials could be dismissed from service.
Political analysts said the move was welcome but expressed some scepticism.
“It is definitely a programme of good governance. The people of Bihar have faced problems when it comes to registering complaints, so this step was much needed. Officials will be more careful and loyal towards their job now. But I have my own doubts with its functioning as even the Right To Information Act has not been successful in Bihar. So I wonder how far this Act will be effective," said Vijay Kumar, professor of political science at the Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University in Bihar.