The Ombudsman has long been one of the world’s most prominent grievance redressal institutions. Originally from Sweden, it has been widely adopted by other countries over the past five decades. Today, Ombudsman’s offices have been established in the United States, Canada, most European nations, New Zealand, the Philippines, Australia and many other countries.
In India, the concept of Ombudsman was introduced by the Administrative Reform Commission of 1966 which recommended the setting up of an Ombudsman both at the Center (Lokpal) and the State (Lokayukta) with varying degrees of Power. Since then, 17 states have set up Lokayuktas headed by retired judges. However, the Lokpal is still to be introduced at the Center. In 2001, Kerala became the first, and only State in India, to set up an Ombudsman office for local governments.
Generally, ombudsman office deals with complaints from the public regarding decisions, actions, or failures to act by public administrative authorities. While the function of an ombudsman office is tailored to the political culture and historical context of a particular country, some common themes emerge in virtually all of these institutions. The ombudsman is an independent, nonpartisan officer (or committee of officers), who exercises oversight of public administration in government. The post is usually provided for in the constitution or created by statute. The ombudsman has the power to investigate, report upon, and make recommendations on individual cases, administrative procedures, and relevant systemic changes. Although the ombudsman deals with complaints from the public about administrative injustice and maladministration, the office is increasingly being given responsibility over human rights, anti-corruption, and other rule of law matters.
The ombudsman’s principal approach is to seek solutions to problems through investigation and conciliation. The authority and influence of the office derives from its basis in law,...