[Answered] An independent and empowered social audit mechanism is an absolute must in every sphere of public service, including judiciary, to ensure performance, accountability and ethical conduct.  Elaborate. 

Social audit (SA) is an exercise of evaluation of performance of public services conducted jointly by service provider and public, especially the beneficiaries. MGNREGA was the first act to make SA by Gram Sabha mandatory. Further, most states have setup Social Audit Units (SAU) to facilitate SA of programmes like PMAY, MDM, etc. Meghalaya has even provided legal backing to SA. 

Social audit is must to ensure performance, accountability and ethical conduct because: 

  1. Social audit goes beyond financial audit of official records to assessing the impact of public services in improving the quality of life of beneficiaries. This helps in improving performance of various public services.  
  2. It makes governance participatory and empowers beneficiary by giving them power to seek answers from authority (jansunwais). 
  3. It makes system more transparent and improve record keeping practices in public offices. (Jansunwai + transparency -> accountability) 
  4. It removes the accessibility gap and helps in building trust between public and administration.  
  5. Contempt provision of judiciary has restricted even constructive criticism and legislature cannot discuss judicial conduct. Social audit can help in improving justice delivery system by creating a feedback mechanism for judiciary and assisting in judicial process reengineering.   
  6. Service delivery agency becomes more aware of the expectations of public and public becomes aware of genuine administrative constraints. SA can provide insights that can help in reconciling objectivity of procedures with subjectivity of public opinions. 

However, SA has not achieved its objectives due to lack of awareness, deficit in political and administrative will among other limitation. A national law mandating SA for public services can be a step forward. 

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