To provide speedy relief to the people aggrieved by government departments, the federal ombudsman has proposed drastic amendments in the relevant laws.
In his annual report to the president, the federal ombudsman identified 22 points for adoption as changes in the existing Ombudsman Laws.
The reforms have precisely urged on strengthening the institution with an affective role for the federal and provincial ombudsmen. The proposals have also focused on the improvement in the prevailing system of ombudsman to bring it in accordance with the spirit of justice envisaged in the Constitution of Pakistan.
Read: Public complaints: ‘Let ombudsman do his work’
“Over [the course of] time, a number of deficiencies and lacunas have been observed which need amendments or which are otherwise necessary to improve the working of ombudsman offices for promoting good governance and strengthening grievance-redressal system, as also for standard of ombudsman laws in Pakistan,” the report said.
In order to add transparency to the public sector working, the ombudsman role as a commissioner under the Freedom of Information laws, should be effectively strengthened in the light of Article 19-A of the Constitution.
“The ombudsman should be bound to resolve the public complaints and issue his orders within a period of 60 days, after the receipt of the grievances to provide speedy relief to the aggrieved citizens,” it said.
It said a time limit should be fixed to file a review against the orders of the ombudsman and no review should be filed after 30 days of the receipt of the ombudsman’s orders on a complaint by an aggrieved party.
The proposal included a significant amendment in the ombudsman laws to avoid delay in the implementation of the ombudsman’s orders made on the citizens’ complaints.
According to the existing rules and procedure, a government department is entitled to file a representation against any order made by the federal ombudsman before the president of Pakistan while representations against the provincial ombudsmen have to be submitted to the respective provincial governors.
Read: Reaching out: Mohtasib to address complaints at tehsil levels
Such entitlement often caused delay in the implementation of the ombudsman’s orders. The proposal demanded that the government departments should not have the right to file representations against the ombudsman orders but they should file a review and that too only before the ombudsman.
As representations take years to decide, a representation before the president or the governor, as the case may be, should be filed directly, not through the Law Division or other channels.
The proposal said: “…Long delayed decisions on department’s representations, are tantamount to denying relief/justice to the aggrieved citizens, the government department should not have a right to file a representation against ombudsman orders. However, the concerned agency should only have the right to file a review but not a representation.”
The proposals also opposed a right to any individual government servant to challenge the ombudsman’s orders involving disciplinary or criminal proceedings against him or her.
The reason behind the demanded amendment is that the public officials held guilty of maladministration will have sufficient opportunity of defending himself during any disciplinary and or criminal proceedings initiated against him, including the right of appeal as provided under the relevant laws.
The proposal also opposed the right of a government servant to initiate any legal proceedings in a court of law against the orders of an ombudsman, except with the prior approval of the head of the concerned department.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2015.