Similarly, the Kerala
Investment Promotion and Facilitation Act was passed in 2018. Under the Rajasthan Enterprises Single Window Enabling and Clearance Act, 2011, if a department fails to decide on an application within a specified period, the application is deemed “allowed”.
While experts agree that the proposed law intends to reform the licensing regime and facilitate ease of doing business in the state, some fear the result could be counter-productive, if not implemented well.
“It may lead to officers raising unnecessary queries or rejecting applications on frivolous grounds,” says Ramesh Vaidyanathan, managing partner, Advaya Legal.
Sethi points out for speedy decisions, government officers require a conducive environment and ecosystem, which encourages fair decision-making. “If they are required to constantly look over their shoulder to assess potential risk of prosecution, it will impede quick and efficient decision-making,” he adds.
Vaidyanathan prefers an approval structure founded on accountability, where the status of the application is shared online, senior officers monitor on a real-time basis, and deviant officers bear the brunt in their annual performance evaluation.
“All departments must also be asked to share on their website statistics on approvals granted, time taken, etc. In essence, greater transparency and accountability is more efficacious than penal action,” Vaidyanathan says.
If government officials are to be made accountable for non-performance, should businesses not be held responsible for meeting the conditions to get a licence or permit?
According to Grover, Section 6 (2)(a) of the Bill, though a loosely worded clause, endeavours to make the applicant accountable for meeting the conditions to get the licence. “However, it would be interesting to see if the government comes up with specific rules and regulations enumerating how information is to be provided by the applicant and specific consequences/implications which will follow in case of non-compliance,” he says.
Most experts are of the view that the latest measures to bring more accountability in the licence system will have to be combined with steps that provide greater access to information and resources to government officers to assist in decision-making, and better insulate them from the pulls and pressures, which tend to afflict the decision-making machinery.
The implementation of this law in Madhya Pradesh
will be closely watched by other states, too.