INTRODUCTION-CONCEPT OF OMBUDSMAN
After independence setting up of a democratic system of government raised tremendous hopes and high expectations amongst people. People sought for quick and satisfactory redressal of their grievances. The committee on ‘Prevention of corruption’ (Santhanam Committee) in its report gave special attention to create machinery in the government which can provide quick and satisfactory redress to public grievances.
The concept of ombudsman first originated in Sweden in the year 1809 by King Charles XII. It was also practiced by Finland in 1919, Denmark in 1953, Norway in 1963, New Zealand in 1962, US 1960 and in UK 1967. Ombudsman is an appointed official whose duty is to investigate complaints, generally on behalf of individuals such as consumers or taxpayers, against Institutions such as companies and government departments. The literal meaning of Ombudsman is ‘grievance man’ or a ‘commissioner of administration.’ According to Garner, he is an officer of parliament having as his primary function, the duty of acting as an agent for the parliament for the purpose of safeguarding the citizen against abuse or misuse of administrative power by the executive.
Judges, lawyers, and other officials are qualified to be an ombudsman. He is appointed by the parliament; the parliament does not interfere with the functions of an ombudsman. Ombudsman can make suggestions or recommendations for changes in the administrative law for higher transparency, efficiency, and justice.
MAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF OMBUDSMAN
Some of the major and important characteristics of ombudsman are listed as follows-
- The ombudsman is an independent and non-partisan officer of the legislative who supervises the administration.
- The ombudsman does not serve as an advocate for a particular person (student, faculty, or staff).
- It is a body that assists with fair and prompt resolution of complaints in an unbiassed, confidential, and independent manner.
- It is normatively universalistic.
- Popularly accessible and visible.
- Consists of extensive resources to conduct his mission.
- It is established as a separate entity that is autonomous in function.
- An ombudsman has the power to investigate, criticise and report back to the legislature but does not reserve administrative actions.
MAIN OBJECTIVES OF OMBUDSMAN
The main objectives of the body of ombudsman are as follows-
- To correct individual wrongs.
- To make bureaucracy more humane.
- To prevent abuses by acting as an administrative watchdog.
- To introduce administrative reforms.
- To vindicate civil servants when unjustly accused.
- To safeguard all citizens against misuse of administrative power by the executive.
- To inquire and investigate complaints made by the government against the administrative agencies.
The powers of ombudsman are not limited as that of the courts. Suo Moto action can be taken by him. The information obtained by the ombudsman in any investigation is highly confidential. After the investigation is over, the ombudsman may make formal recommendations, which includes- referring the matter to any other agency, reconsider the law that underpins the administrative action, rectifying the administrative actions.
OMBUDSMAN IN INDIA
The idea of ombudsman was first talked in our country by Mr. K.M. Munshim. But the main credit goes to Sri M.C Setalvad. In all India Lawyers’ Conference held in 1962, Sri M.C Setalvad urged the participants to undertake a study about the feasibility of ombudsman in India. He proposed an idea for establishing an institution as that of ombudsman. It was then spoken by Dr L.M Singhvi, M.P, who raised the issue for setting up of an office of ombudsman in emphatic terms and also campaigned for it in the parliament. In 1963, Mr P.B Gajendragadkar, the then chief justice of the Supreme Court of India made a strong plea for its adoption in India.
In 1966, the Administrative Reforms Commission recommended the office of Lokpal similar to that of an ombudsman. On the basis of the recommendation made by the commission, the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill was placed in the parliament in the year 1969.
The Administrative Reforms Commission formulated the following principles recommending the office of Lokpal-
- Lokpal should be demonstrably independent and impartial.
- The investigations and the proceedings should be conducted in private and should be informal in character.
- His appointment should be non-political.
- He should deal with the matters involving acts of injustice and corruption.
The qualifications for a Lokpal are as follows-
- He should not be a Member of Parliament or State Legislature.
- If he is holding any office of trust or profit, he should resign from it.
- He should severe relations with political parties. He should leave up any other profession he was attending.
- He should leave up any trade or any other occupation.
The salary and pension of the Lokpal are equal to that of the Chief Justice of India. Complaints lodged for investigation will be taken up with the consent of the Lokpal. If he is biased in the matter, the President shall deal with it in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. Maladministration means unreasonable, unjust, or improper administration, undue delay, or negligence in administrative procedure. If there is alternate remedy by way of proceeding before any Tribunal or Court of Law, then Lokpal will not investigate at grievance.
The Lokpal will not investigate the complaint under selective circumstances. Some are-
- If the complaints is time barred.
- If the complaints relates to any person who is not a public servant.
- If the complaints is trivial.
- If there is no sufficient ground for proceeding with the investigation.
- Complaints can be filed only by any person who is not a public servant and it should be in the prescribed form, with prescribes fee, except for those who are poor and have no means to pay the fees.
The main Functions of Lokpal are-
- The Lokpal can act against all public servants.
- He can also investigate any complaint made by private person.
- He can take decision against the erring public servants.
- He can recommend his findings to be enforced into action.
Some States have adopted the Ombudsman system called Lokayukta. The instruction of Lokayukta has been established in several States by enacting a Statues specifically for this purpose. In some States, Uplokayutkas has been appointed. The States in which Lokayukta has been established by enacting Statues include the States of U.P., Bihar, State of H.P., Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Gujarat, etc. The provisions of the States, however, are not same. But in all the states, the Lokayuktas have been given jurisdiction over the Ministers, Public servants, and officers in all States. In Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, and Orissa, Lokayukta has been given jurisdiction over the Chief Minister also. In Maharashtra, Bihar, U.P. and Rajasthan, Lokayukta has not been given jurisdiction over ex-ministers and ex-secretaries.
The qualifications for a Lokayukta are as follows-
- He shall be a person who is or has been a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court.
- The Lokayukta or Uplokayutkas should not be a member of any legislature and should not have any connection with any political parties.
- He shall not carry out any business by profession.
The main functions of Lokayukta are as follows-
- Lokayukta may investigate any action which is taken by or with the general or specific approval of chief minister, a minister, a member of the State legislature, the Chairman, Vice-Chairman or a member of an authority, Board, or a committee etc. In any case where a complaint involving a grievance, or an allegation is made in respect of such action.
- Lokayukta may investigate any action taken by the public servant if it is referred by the state government.
- The Lokayukta deals with the issue of search warrant. For the said purpose, they have all the powers of a civil court which trying a suit under CPC, 1908 in respect of summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath, production of any document, received evidence of affidavits, getting any public record or copy from any court office etc.
- The Lokayukta after investigation shall make a declaration with regard to the governor or chief minister of the state to the vacation of office of the said official.
DISADVANTAGES OF OMBUDSMAN
In spite of having various advantages, there are some arguments against setting up of the office of the Ombudsman.
- Cannot provide a quick solution to complex problems
- Decisions are not binding
- It is said that this institution may be successful in the countries with low population, but countries with large population like India with their large complaints it may be difficult for a single man to solve all those problems.
- In India, this institution is not suitable. It is an impractical and disastrous experiment which will not fit into the Constitution.
In order to make sure that a nation should prosper it becomes very important that the administrative wing of the nation is functioning properly and efficiently and to check that there is no corruption in the administrative department of the nation. Corruption is actually the deep-rooted cause which is the biggest obstacle in the development of a nation. In order to tackle this problem of corruption the institution of ombudsman plays the most important role and in the Indian context this role is played by the Lokpal. But Ombudsman is not a ‘magic potion for all the evils of bureaucracy.’ His success depends upon the existence of a reasonable well-administered state. He cannot cope with the situation where administration is riddled with backing and corruption. Thus, it’s a great system of control for the country which has less population and good working government but in the country like India with this large population it is not that effective for check in administration.
Author: SHINJINEE NAMHATA,
IFIM LAW SCHOOL, BENGALURU, 1st Year BBA-LLB