Study of Ombudsman in India
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.
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.
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.