Updated: Oct 7, 2020
People who are not related to the law field or people who have less or no knowledge about law or legalities often find it difficult to understand the terminologies of law and thereby left unaware even of their Basic Rights. That's where people having expertise in the field come to the rescue by sharing their knowledge for the benefit of the masses. In this exclusive article, I am going to talk about Ombudsman, an Anti-Corruption Authority.
India is one of the high ranking states in case of corruption. Many times people do not know an alternative time-saving remedy for matters like this and the complaints stay stuck and unresolved in courts. As we all know that courts are overburdened with the cases of injustice, therefore, a need for setting up an Independent body gave rise to an Anti-corruption statutory authority which is known as "Ombudsman".
Now, exactly who is this Ombudsman? An Ombudsman is an authority or an officer appointed by the Government and even by the Private bodies/ Institutions to investigate the complaints by the citizens (individuals) against the abuse or misuse of administrative power by the government officials. Ombudsman is also known as 'Representative' of the public. The Ombudsman looks into the complaints and resolves the matter in a peaceful manner. Generally, the institution of an ombudsman is referred to in matters of injustice with a service consumer.
As compared to complex and energy-consuming as well as time-consuming court proceedings, the Institution of Ombudsman tends to provide cost-effective & quick justice to the complainant or aggrieved party. In India, ombudsman exists in various sectors such as in the insurance sector, income tax, banking, and other sectors.
Now, I am going to provide a formal or official definition of Ombudsman here.
"Ombudsman" means an agent, delegate, officer, or commissioner.
Garner, in administrative law, defines "Ombudsman" as “an officer of the Parliament, having as his primary function, the duty of acting as an agent for Parliament, for the purpose of safeguarding the citizen against abuse or misuse of administrative power by the executive”. The main function of “ombudsman” is to investigate allegations of mal-administration. He investigates and reports to parliament on citizen’s complaints against the government and its officials.
The historical background of Ombudsman & its Institution can be traced back as ancient as 221 BC flourished in China. Although, the word “Ombudsman” is a Scandinavian word. The concept of the institution of Ombudsman at first originated in Sweden, a Scandinavian state, in 1809. Countries like New Zealand and Norway also adopted the system of ombudsman in the year 1962. Denmark, Finland, England (in the form of parliamentary commissioner), and in India (in the form of Lokpal and Lokayukta) accepted the institution of Ombudsman.
In India, Ombudsman is known as Lokpal and/or Lokayukta. Sanskrit word for Ombudsman is ‘लोकपाल’ lokapāla. Wherein “Lok” means People and “Pal” means Caretaker/Protector. Hence, “Lokpal” means ‘Caretaker/Protector of people’ also ‘defender of people’ or ‘People's Friend’.
Ombudsman is an Authority/ Body under Anti-graft Laws to fight against corruption in India.
The institution of Ombudsman is established in India as per the rules and regulations of the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act passed in 2013 with amendments in parliament, pursuant to the Jan Lokpal movement (The Indian Anti-corruption movement) led by Anna Hazare in 2011. The difference between Lokpal and Lokayukta is that Lokpal is responsible for enquiring into corruption charges at the National level while the Lokayukta performs the same function at the State level.
The good news is that after so many years of Independence and after a long fight to have a stringent law against corruption, finally in 2019 Indian has got its first official Ombudsman, The retired Supreme Court Judge Shri Pinaki Chandra Ghose. However, the institution of Ombudsman has been already present and established in states in India before the official appointment of the Ombudsman of India.
What steps do I need to follow to register a complaint?
Here are the steps you might want to follow if you are an aggrieved customer:
Step 1: The first wise thing to do is to raise a complaint with the party concerned (bank or insurance company for example) in writing. Make sure you have a proof of the fact that you raised the complaint with all the details.
Step 2: If the party rejects your complaint or does not reply within a stipulated time, then raise a complaint with the ombudsman. Make sure you supply all the documentation and proof to the ombudsman for them to assess your case.
Step 3: Within a stipulated time of the complaint, the ombudsman tries to resolve the dispute.
Step 4: If the resolution is not acceptable to you, you can approach the courts.
Points to note:
Please keep in mind the following points when you raise a complaint with the ombudsman:
You can never go to the ombudsman directly without first having raised the issue with the concerned party/service provider. For example, if you have a grievance against an insurance company, you will first need to raise it with them before you knock on the doors of the insurance ombudsman.
Why do we need such institutions?
i) Mal-administration is like a termite that slowly erodes the foundation of a nation and hinders administration from completing its task. Corruption is the root cause of this problem.
ii) Most of the anti-corruption agencies are hardly independent. Even Supreme Court has been termed CBI as a “caged parrot” and “its master’s voice”.
iii) Many of these agencies are advisory bodies without any effective powers and their advice is rarely followed.
iv) There is also the problem of internal transparency and accountability. Moreover, there is not any separate and effective mechanism to put checks on these agencies.
v) In this context, an independent institution of Lokpal has been a landmark move in the history of Indian polity which offered a solution to the never-ending menace of corruption.
* I am hereby attaching the pdf file of Lokpal & Lokayukta Act, 2013 for your in depth reference
Hope I have been of a little help here.
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Disclaimer: References have been taken for this article from various sources such as Law Books, Wikipedia, other websites, and especially from https://www.thewealthwisher.com/ombudsman-register-grievance/ and