1. Seeing that
- Governance is rapidly declining and corruption in practically all departments of government is increasing equally rapidly;
- Functioning and accountability in government departments leaves much to be desired;
- Maintenance, Cleanliness, and Upkeep of Delhi’s infrastructure, Public Services, Parks, Toilets, Traffic lights, Roads, Pavements and other assets remains far from satisfactory;
- Pleas, Petitions, Complaints, Meetings, Citizens groups gatherings and other forms of protest not having yielded results;
- Law and order for the common man continues to deteriorate, while those in the government and the political class appropriate the bulk of security and other services that should be available to the public in much larger proportion;
- Grievances of the public are seldom addressed;
- Accountability at practically all higher levels of governance remains low and non- existent;
- The quality of construction and supervision in the build up to the Common Wealth Games (CWG) having brought national shame and heavy loss in public money and the public remaining unconvinced that the culprits at the highest level will be brought to book in reasonable time frames;
- That the malaise in practically all categories noticed in the run up to the CWG obtains in most, if not all, ministries, departments and agencies responsible for infrastructure, upkeep, protection of the assets created and the like has generally been of the same abysmal level as that noticed in the build up to the CWG;
- Malfeasance, misfeasance, defalcation and large-scale misappropriations at practically all levels of governance having become the other of the day
2. Several NGOs, RWAs and concerned citizens of Delhi taking it upon themselves to put a stop to what they perceive to be a total lack of accountability and degeneration of governance at practically all levels have come together for the purpose of restoring democratic norms, good governance, improved law and order for the average citizen, probity and accountability in the process of governance in the Capital City of Delhi, as well as at the Centre, since many areas remain under the direct control of the Central government..
Aims and Objects
3. The Delhi Citizens Commission (hereafter referred to as Del CC) is being set up with the following Aims and Objects:
- To organise and bond the concerned NGOs and RWAs and citizens of Delhi into a potent force for bringing in better governance and improved Law and Order;
- To bring about accountability in all government departments and agencies concerned with the capital city and its administration, infrastructure, development, future planning and delivery of services;
- To create a functional model along the lines mentioned above for concerned NGOs and Citizens in other states and cities to follow.
COMPOSITION, FUNCTIONING AND CHARTER OF DELHI CITIZENS COMMISSION
4. The Del CC at its apex will comprise three eminent citizens, whose names in the first instance will be proposed and ratified in a joint conclave comprising Common Cause, NNFI, CHRI, MRGG, FRNV and RWAs and Associates that have combined with the prime movers of the initiative, Common Cause-NNFI-MRGG..
5. In selecting the first set of Del CC commissioners and their subsequent replacement the following aspects will dictate the choice:
- The standing, reputation, probity and general competence to discharge their functions should be such that they would be acceptable to the organizations and individuals that have come together for the purpose;
- The stature of the Commissioners should be such that they automatically command the respect of the peoples of Delhi and even beyond at the national level;
- The Commissioners should be politically neutral in the discharge of their duties;
- The Commissioners should have no personal (hidden) agendas nor should they seek or accept awards, positions or high office from the government or any other entity that could tarnish the esteem in which the commissioners would be held;
- In principle, the commissioners should generally be free of onerous commitments that could prevent them from devoting adequate time and energies to the task that they would have undertaken.
Charter and Mode of Functioning
6. The commissioners selected by the various NGOs, RWAs and Associates would invariably be persons of great experience, prowess and intellect. They would be the best judges to decide the manner in which they would like to function. The aspects listed below by way of charter and modes of functioning are guidelines that can be improved upon or added to as experience is gained. Briefly, the charter includes, inter alia:
- To build up the standing of Del CC so that not only the citizens of Delhi, but the government of Delhi, Central government as well as Parliamentarians, Media and the Judiciary come to recognize and respect the recommendations of the commissioners for all aspects related to promoting good governance, smoother and speedier delivery of services, improvement in law and order, rooting out of corruption and the like;
- Based on inputs provided by Del CC Advisory Council (details further on in the paper) and their own direct observations the commissioners would decide on the most important matters requiring to be probed or investigated by them;
- To ensure that the quality of probe or investigation commands respect from all quarters with its incisiveness, thoroughness ,impartiality and professionalism;
- The aspects of high quality of professionalism and lack of bias would be extremely important because it would form the basis for further action to be taken by the commissioners;
- Every aspect that is taken up by the commissioners need not result from investigations carried out independently on behalf of Del CC. It could also be based upon direct inputs that are in the public domain and on which action that should be taken by the government or the competent authority was being delayed with a view to letting the furore so created to subside. An example are the CAG reports, which when released put the spotlight on the government and its departments and agencies but seldom lead to prosecution;
- On a number of occasions exposures based on leaks inside information or investigative journalism by the media puts the government in the dock, clearly highlighting the culpability of the departments and concerned individuals. In these cases further endorsement by the commissioners after due diligence to verify the correctness and authenticity of the exposure would add to the pressure on the government to take action;
- Once the reputation of Del CC is established and the status of commissioners begins to command respect the government would have no choice but to follow through on the reports put out by the commissioners;
- Even the judiciary in certain cases could take suo motu cognizance of the commission’s reports;
- Occasionally misconduct of government departments and agencies that is seldom allowed to be probed by impartial investigating teams would come to the knowledge of commissioners through the RTI route or from whistle blowers serving within, who would very much like to report cases of corruption once they have confidence that inputs made available to the commissioners can not be traced back to them. (The method of ensuring foolproof secrecy in this regard is spelled out later on in the paper);
- It is often the case that when offences committed by police personnel or corruption in government departments are highlighted in the media the culprits so named are suspended and transferred, or police persons so named are sent to the lines. The public is seldom allowed to know the follow up. The commissioners would be able to demand to be told of the follow up actions.
7. The guidelines spelled out in the preceding paragraph for the functioning of the commissioners are not exhaustive. The list can be expanded should the commissioners choose to do so. Once the commissioners have made up their mind on the cases that require further action on their part after the reports have been received and analyzed by experts selected by them for doubly checking on their veracity, the commissioners could take any of the pathways listed below for urging follow up action by the government or the concerned competent authorities:
- Endorsing the reports prepared by them to the Chief Justices of the Delhi High Court or the Supreme Court so that the concerned court can take suo motu note and direct further action as deemed fit;
- Sending the report to the Prime Minister with copies to The President, Vice President, Lok Sabha Speaker and any other dignitary or competent authority for further action;
- Press briefing to the Media;
- Requesting the Advisory Council to hold conclaves on the issues involved for creating greater public awareness as also eliciting views from the larger body of NGOs, Lawyers Associations, professional bodies involved with the particular subject;
- Should the commissioners perceive that the government were shying away from taking action on the reports or trying to cover up, the commissioners could decide to file a PIL in the Delhi High Court or the Supreme Court secure in the knowledge that the judiciary would realise that the PIL had become the last resort after all attempts to secure remedial action from the government or the concerned authorities had failed;
- In selected cases the commissioners might decide to forward their reports directly to the directors CBI, Enforcement Directorate, Commissioner Central Board of Direct Taxes, Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Election Commission, CIC and any other authority that the commissioners feel should pursue the matter.
Replacement and Turnover of the Commissioners
8. The first set of three commissioners having being selected (as brought out earlier in paragraph 5 above) would have a tenure of five years, so that they are in a position to stabilize the new entity being created as a model for the rest of the country as also to impart institutional vigor to it in its formative stage.
9. After the first five years or on one of the commissioners retiring prematurely for whatever reason, the procedure for selecting the replacement would be analogous to the selection of the first set of commissioners. Additionally, the retiring commissioner or commissioners’ recommendations for successors would also be given due consideration by the Advisory Council. After the stepping down of the first set of commissioners all subsequent commissioners selected for Del CC would have three-year tenure, which could be extended by two years. During the transition from the first set of commissioners to their successors it would be ensured that the intake of the new commissioners and departure of the old commissioners is so arranged that there is a reasonable degree of overlap so that continuity and smooth succession is maintained. The method of staggered replacement can be decided upon separately by the Advisory Council.
DEL CC ADVISORY COUNCIL
10. The Del CC Advisory Council (hereafter referred to as AC) shall consist of fifteen members at any one time. The first AC will have the following composition:
a) Two members each from the prime movers, i.e., Common Cause, NNFI and MRGG, preferably Trustees;
b) One member each from other NGOs that have been associated with Common Cause, MRGG or NNFI or those who become associated with Del CC after its setting up. Once the first AC comes into being subsequent intake and rotation will be decided by this body. Members of the first AC will have tenure of five years. In the case of the prime movers (Common Cause, MRGG and NNFI) the initial members could continue for an additional period of three years. However, the endeavor during the first five years tenure of the AC should be to strengthen and streamline the procedure in such a manner that Del CC, at least at the level of the AC, does not become over-dependent upon the founding persons and younger members are gradually brought in to carry the torch forward.
Charter and Function
11. The smooth function, efficacy and prestige of the Del CC will primarily rest on the AC. Therefore, its functioning becomes as important if not more important than the citizen commissioners, for it would be the AC that would embody the DNA of Del CC, in a manner of speaking. Broadly the charter of the Advisory Council would include, inter alia:
- Be the creator, maintainer and repository of Del CC in all its dimensions;
- To select the Del CC commissioners and provide them secretarial support for their functioning;
- To maintain constant liaison with the citizen commissioners ;
- To uphold the charter of the citizen commissioners. However, if required to do so it could ask any of the commissioners to step down should it came to light that in the overall interest of Del CC the continuing of the said commissioner might not be in the interest of the citizens of Delhi. So that there is no heart burning should such an extreme step become necessary, the commissioners when selected and prior to their acceptance would be briefed about the particular clause. The decision to request a commissioner to step down would require the written approval of at least twelve of the AC members.
- Since Common Cause has an established office, the Secretary General of the AC would be provided by Common Cause, as also the use of its premises till alternative arrangements can be made;
- The President of the AC will alternate between Common Cause, MRGG and NNFI for the first two years rotating every four months. Subsequently, the President will be selected on six monthly basis from other associates, in turn;
- The deed of Del CC, which will be a registered body under the Society Act 1861 after having been duly vetted by competent attorneys, will be approved by the AC before tasking the law firm appointed for the purpose to register the deed. It would be the responsibility of the Secretary General to monitor progress;
- The AC would also be responsible for creating a corpus for Del CC, accepting donations and for maintaining transparency of Del CC accounts. Further details on the maintenance of accounts are given separately in the ensuing paragraphs;
- The Secretary General would be responsible for creating and maintaining the Del CC website;
- Once the corpus has been created and donations start flowing the AC will approve the staff requirement for assisting the Secretary General in the discharge of his duties.
DUTIES AND FUNCTION OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ADVISORY COUNCIL
The guidelines for the functioning of the Secretary General are given below:
- For the initial period of five years the Secretary General will be provided by Common Cause. Subsequently the Secretary General can be provided by any of the associates or hired after approval by the AC;
- For the first two years, till the fund position improves, Common Cause would generally undertake Secretarial and other support for the Secretary General. Associates that are in a position to provide financial support for the purpose should endeavor to do so;
- The Secretary General would be responsible for keeping the minutes of all meetings, issuing circulars, details of associates and list of their members, maintaining accounts and all other secretarial work pertaining to Del CC. For this the AC would provide the Secretary General with the requisite number of assistants;
- The Secretary General would send out notices for meetings of the AC at least once every quarter after getting the dates approved by the President. Emergent meetings can be called at any time on the request of the President or the Secretary General;
- While it would be the endeavor to keep the website of Del CC up to date the AC after going through the minutes of the meeting will indicate to the Secretary General those aspects which could be put on the Website.
- The importance and criticality of the role of the Secretary General as the linchpin of the Del CC and the AC cannot be over-emphasized. Hence his selection would have to be carefully gone into by the prime movers in the first instance and the AC during subsequent changeovers.
- Ordinarily, the Secretary General should also be changed every five years. If the work of the incumbent is found to be unsatisfactory, the individual could be asked to demit office by a simple majority of the AC members voting at a special session held for the purpose.
FUNDING AND MAINTENANCE OF ACCOUNTS
12. Essentially Del CC represents the coming together of concerned citizens from Delhi and from other parts of India for stemming the rot in governance that could severely undermine democratic functioning at the Centre and the States. The prime movers, AC and the citizen commissioners comprise concerned citizens who have been working since long for uplifting society and improvement of governance in Delhi and the country. The majority of them having worked selflessly for many years have acquired an appreciable degree of respect and credibility. None of them would be seeking remuneration for their efforts during the institutionalization of Del CC or its continued functioning thereafter. If anything they would be contributors. Nevertheless, the scope of the task that is envisaged and the supporting staff of dedicated and competent persons who would have to be paid decent salaries would require a continuous flow of a minimum level of funds so that the work of Del CC is not hampered due to lack of funds.
13. While it may not be possible at this point in time to assign a figure for the corpus it should be the endeavor of the prime movers and their supporters and associates to mobilize donations so that an initial figure of 2.5 crore rupees is available for the corpus. Subsequently, it could be built up to 5 crores. For achieving this figure the charter of Del CC will be proclaimed to the public through various channels and support groups. The prime movers will also hold public meetings and explain the charter at institutions like India International Centre, India Habitat Centre, Delhi Gymkhana Club, Chelmsford Club, Press Club, CII, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, PHHDCCI and other selected forums.
Maintenance of Accounts
14. Prior to collection or acceptance of any sum it would be ensured by the AC that the trust fund, duly registered with any of the public sector banks is first set up so that all monies received are directly deposited in the Del CC account. Once the account has been set up AC members would send out letters asking for donations to various bodies and individuals who they feel would be able to donate towards setting up the corpus or in the form of monthly or yearly donations for the running of Del CC. At a later stage tamper proof collection boxes would be set up for Del CC collections at appropriate places. A methodology would be worked out for visiting these boxes on a weekly basis by a team of three members or office holders designated by AC for the purpose.
15. The Accounts Cell that would be responsible for collection of donations and maintenance of accounts would function under the aegis of the Secretary General. The Accounts Cell would comprise a treasurer and two assistant treasurers. The accounts would be updated on a daily basis on all working days. On a weekly basis these would be approved by the Secretary General; The President of the AC would inspect the accounts in the first week of each month. The updated accounts would be put on the website of Del CC. Expenditure guidelines and instructions for authorization of signing of cheques jointly by the Secretary General and a nominated treasurer will be laid down in a separate instruction after consultation with the chartered accountants appointed by the AC.
RTI AND WHISTLEBLOWERS
16. The AC and citizen commissioners would normally get their inputs for looking into areas that require further investigation by the latter from the media, published documents, CAG and other reports on which the government had not acted. Further source would be through the medium of RTI and whistle blowers.
17. RTI can be utilized for seeking information in various ways. One way would be for the AC to initiate RTI directly on behalf of Del CC by nominating any of the staff members to do the filing. Further, an appeal would go out to the citizens of Delhi and NGOs and associates to share RTI inputs extracted by them with the AC, wherever the RTI in question dealt with larger public issues and not inputs sought in personal cases. Thereafter, it would be for the AC to decide upon follow up action.
18. As in the case of RTI an appeal would go out to the public that whistleblowers in the know of corruption, malfeasance, misfeasance, defalcation and other illegal activities in government departments and agencies could write confidentially to the citizen commissioners by name giving details of the misconduct, misdeed, commission or omission that would require to be investigated by non-partisan and non-subverted entities.
19. The methodology of assuring foolproof protection of identity to the whistleblower would be made known through the Del CC website and through media channels. The procedure followed would be that any letter addressed to the citizen commissioners at the Del CC address would straightaway be put into the safe deposit box after registration of all incoming mail. All such sealed envelopes would be opened jointly by the commissioners at Del CC mail office on a fortnightly or monthly basis as decided by the Secretary General in consultation with the commissioners. The commissioners after opening and inspecting all such letters would enter the name of the whistleblower, letter number and date and one or two line synopsis of the aspect divulged in a register kept in the safe deposit box for the purpose. Similarly, the letter would also be returned to the safe deposit. The commissioners would then decide upon the follow up action to be taken. They would also apprise the AC on the intended follow up action without divulging the name of the whistleblower. In this fashion once confidence of the public is gained that Del CC has a failsafe methodology for protection of identity of the whistleblower many illegalities, cases of corruption and even cases of officials indulging in anti-national activities would keep flowing to the Del CC.
20. It is not necessary at this stage to put down guidelines for the follow up action to be taken by citizen commissioners. They would exercise their judgment on how to proceed with cases that require further action and the priority to be allocated to each case.
21. NGOs that have built up a sound reputation of working in this domain over the years can count on support of several lawyers, professionals, serving and retired diplomats and bureaucrats, senior citizens, youth groups, social service groups and other categories of persons for affording assistance for all good causes. Once the credentials of Del CC have been established all such support and affiliation available to the NGOs would automatically be available to Del CC. This support becomes invaluable because respected lawyers, professionals, journalists and others members of the public in a position to help would provide their expertise and services freely. Thus should an investigation be required to be carried out for the costing, technical feasibility, quality of construction of any project, reputed architects and engineers would be co-opted by the AC for carrying out the task and making an independent report. The same applies for any other investigation that the AC or the citizen commissioners may decide to pursue.
22. Once the results of the investigations have been evaluated by the AC and the separate independent body of experts, the AC and commissioners would decide upon the next steps. The next steps could include, inter alia:
- Briefing the President and Vice President of India where it is felt that the government at the highest level were itself suspect in the matter;
- Depending on the sensitivity of the case, informing the Prime Minister or the CVC and heads of the investigative agencies concerned about the matter;
- Going public with the investigation report ;
- If the government is suspect, initiate investigation to the extent possible through retired experts who had in-depth knowledge of these matters while in service;
- In very sensitive cases sending the report by name under a sealed cover to the chief justice of the supreme court or chief justice of the Delhi high court as the case may be ;
- Filing PIL on behalf of Del CC;
- Filing FIR incases where it were felt that the authorities are stonewalling the case.
23. At the present juncture the charter for the Delhi Citizen Commission is being initiated by the three prime movers NGOs, namely, Common Cause, NNFI-National Network for India and MRGG- Movement for Restoration of Good Government. Before going ahead with this mission the prime movers have held several discussions amongst themselves and many associates in Delhi and other parts of the country who have been getting together from time to time to bring about improvement in governance and the deteriorating law and order in the country. The Del CC charter after it is approved by all concerned and institutionalized in Delhi could serve as a model for all states and cities where citizen groups could come forward to establish their own charters. The prime movers and the Advisory Council of Del CC, once Del CC starts functioning, would be available for assistance and advice for similar efforts elsewhere in the country.
24. The target date for commencement of operations by Del CC after registration is 1st April, 2011
Convenor, MRGG and Trustee NNFI
New Delhi, November 25, 2010