Good Governance Remains the Key Cornerstone of Reform Agenda

19 May 2019

Good governance is fundamental to achieve speedy and inclusive growth and to provide timely and quality services to citizens in order to meet the aspirations of India@75. Good governance also empowers citizens through better provision of education, healthcare and social security. The trifecta of executive, legislature and judiciary must work together efficiently so that democracy and governance functions effectively. Some important policy suggestions to reform the various arms of the state are laid out in the subsequent paragraphs:

(A). Administrative Reforms

Administrative reforms should be high on the agenda for excellence in governance. An Administrative Reforms body needs to be set up to study earlier reports on the issue and identify key reforms required for performance, accountability, e-governance, training and capacity building and so on. The body shall present its report in 3 months which will be actioned within a year. Following are the key actionable items for the body:

Stability of tenures should be ensured in higher levels of bureaucracy.
Lateral entry of experts and specialists should be introduced in larger numbers in senior levels of bureaucracy.
Skilling and training bureaucrats at all levels of government should be done to ensure efficient delivery of services to citizens and enterprises.
Talented youth should be deployed for national service at block and panchayat level with adequate training for commitment to national goals.
The autonomy, empowerment and independence of institutions and regulators should be ensured together with appropriate accountability.

(B). Public Service Delivery

Common Service Centers need to be set up in all villages to provide online common public services to all in areas such as birth and death registration, identity and election cards, updating records, paying taxes, obtaining driving license, etc.

(C). Ease of Doing Business

Reforms should be undertaken, in partnership with state governments, to improve the Ease of Doing Business (EoDB) in the country. The objective will be to ensure effective user-friendly processes at the grassroots while also ensuring that India attains the top 50 rank in global EoDB ranking in near future. Following are the key actionable items in this regard:

An EoDB Board, comprising industry and Government representatives, should be set up to constantly recommend actions and monitor progress as well as work with administration for leveraging technology-based solutions. The board should be chaired by an eminent industrialist.
Efforts should be made to synchronize directives from different government authorities.
A level playing field for public and private players in government contracts should be ensured.
A competitive process for government procurement should be maintained while avoiding the award of contracts on nomination basis.

(D). Police Reforms

Police reforms are much needed in today’s milieu. The citizens’ trust in police must be built up so that police personnel are sought after for assistance. Funds need to be earmarked to provide police personnel with decent work conditions and high-class equipment including transportation and housing that will encourage them to perform to their best ability. It is also pivotal that political interference in police functioning should be curbed. In this regard, following are the actionable items for carrying out suitable police reforms:

States should be incentivised to implement the Model Police Act, 2006.
A clear line of accountability and deterrent consequences should be developed as a model for state governments.
State governments should be incentivised to separate the investigation wing and the law & order division.
Training of police force should be improved.
Grants for upgradation of police stations and adoption of modern equipment shall be provided to the state governments.
Fixed tenure should be accorded for the top police officers from Director General of Police to the Inspector General level. Such tenures will be broken only under exceptional cases as per guidelines.
Recruitment of police should be entirely on merit.

(E ). Judicial Reforms

Judicial reforms need to be undertaken on a priority basis. With 30 million pending cases and years of backlog which saps the confidence of law-abiding citizens, it is essential to provide timely justice. Additionally, there should be a clear division of criminal, civil and corporate courts.

A Committee needs to be set up to study simplification of laws and identify outdated laws that continue to exist on statutes. As a principle, issues that are not criminal in nature should be dealt with civil liability to the extent possible. In this light, the Committee will examine the means to appropriately calibrate civil liability and criminal penalty in existing laws. Following are the proposed actionable pointers for the Committee in the field of judicial reforms:

Efforts should be made to pass ‘The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill’.
A paperless court system with facilities for esummons, e-cause lists, e-payments, digitally signed court orders and e-filling provisions should be implemented.
A National Judicial Service should be created to select Judges for the district courts.
‘National Litigation Policy, 2010’ should be modified to aid effective implementation.
Quick action should be taken on decisions so that deterrent punishment is stressed.
A program to improve infrastructure of courts should be devised and implemented in a phased manner.
Existing vacancies should be filled up in a mission mode.
Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015 should be implemented properly. The law should be strengthened further to improve enforcement of contracts.
Alternate dispute mechanisms should be strengthened.
Provisions of Code of Civil Procedure that limit adjournments to three in civil cases should be amended to permit only one adjournment.
A system of expert advice for cases pertaining to specialist knowledge such as advanced technologies, financial matters, IPR, etc should be instituted to support judges in making their decisions.

(F). Electoral Reforms

The election of representatives on a regular basis is one of the key successes of our democracy. However, frequent elections interrupt the development cycle and delay decisions. Moreover, election funding is often opaque, leading to improper actions. In this regard, the following electoral reforms are proposed:

Elections to the Parliament and all state legislatures should be conducted simultaneously from 2024. In this regard, a committee to study the legislative changes for the purpose should be set up.
Cash donations to political parties should not be allowed. All donations to political parties should be through the banking system or other means with a digital trail.
Expenditure limit of candidates should be increased to reflect practical needs and a formula for automatic further increases should be devised.
Fast track courts for handling criminal cases against elected representatives should be established as per Supreme Court Judgement.
Political parties should be mandated to audit their annual accounts and file tax returns.

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