In most of the countries there is little in publicness in public administration. People very often raise their voices against various shortcomings and limitations of the public administration. As a remedy to these grievances against public administration alertness at various levels has been found and the creation of Ombudsman is a bold step towards it.

The meaning of Ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authority. The precise meaning of the term Ombudsman is grievance officer. In other words if there are gross lapses in the functioning of the public administration the citizens have power to lodge complaint against the concerned authority. He is an officer of parliament.

The concept of Ombudsman at first originated in Sweden, a Scandinavian state, in 1809 more than two centuries ago. From the beginning of the 20th century the system began to draw attention of several other European states and thereafter it got accepted in other countries including Norway, Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, England, India and Pakistan. Institution of Ombudsman is a unique institution which deals to an open government by providing a democratic control mechanism over the powers of the state. Experts are of opinion that the institution of Ombudsman is nothing new. In ancient Rome there was an institution known as “Tribune of the People”. There was the existence of Ombudsman-like institutions in ancient times. The Ombudsman was an extra-constitutional authority to supervise the proper working of the constitution.

Ombudsman means “an attorney or a delegate, agent, officer or commissioner”. A precise definition of Ombudsman is not possible but Garner rightly describes him as: “An officer of parliament, having as his primary functions, the duty of acting as an agent for parliament, for the purpose of safeguarding citizens against abuse or misuse of administrative power by the executive.”

The concept of Mohtasib (Ombudsman) is an ancient Islamic concept and many Islamic States had established the office of Mohtasib to ensure that no wrong or injustice was done to the citizens. The establishment of Ombudsman for protection of the rights of the people ensures adherence to the rule of law, diagnosing, redressing and rectifying injustice done to a person through maladministration and suppressing corrupt practices.

The institution of the Ombudsman Punjab was established on September 30, 1996 through an ordinance. This ordinance was followed by two other ordinances and finally the Punjab Office of the Ombudsman Act, 1997 (Act X of 1997) was promulgated on June 30, 1997. For making the Office of Ombudsman more accessible and effective, the outreach of this office has been extended by establishing district offices in all districts of the Punjab in May, 2014. The advisers and consultants are appointed on contract basis for a period of one year till November 30 each year. As per Section 4, the tenure of the post of the Ombudsman is four years.

The incumbent Ombudsman, Mr Najam Saeed, took oath on July 21, 2016 as 7th Ombudsman for the Punjab. During the past 20 years, the eminent personalities who have served as Ombudsman Punjab include Mr Justice ® Munir Ahmad Khan, Mr Justice ® Manzoor Hussain Sial, Mr Justice ® Sajjad Ahmad Sipra, Mr Abdur Rashid Khan Mr. Khalid Mahmood and Mr Javed Mahmood.

The Office of Ombudsman Punjab has been established for the purposes enshrined in the preamble of the Punjab Office of the Ombudsman Act, 1997 to provide protection to the rights of the people, to ensure adherence to the rule of law, to suppress corrupt practices, to diagnose, redress and rectify any injustice done to a person due to maladministration of the agencies.

The law empowers the Ombudsman Punjab to entertain complaints against any department, commission or office of the provincial government or a statutory corporation or other institution established or controlled by the provincial government but does not include the high court and the courts working under the supervision of high court and provincial assembly and its secretariat.

The Ombudsman has the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, for summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person; compelling the production of documents; receiving evidence on affidavits and issuing commission for examination of witnesses. The Ombudsman is vested with the powers to enter and search any premises and inspect any article, books of accounts or other documents; impound and seal such articles. He has the same powers, mutatis mutandis, as the high court has to punish any person for its contempt.

It is pertinent to mention here that submission of the annual report by the Ombudsman Punjab is a statutory requirement under Section 28(1) of the Punjab Office of Ombudsman Act , 1997. The report is to be submitted to the government within three months of the conclusion of the calendar year to which the report pertains.

During the 20 years of its establishment a large number of complaints have been received by Office of the Ombudsman which remained deeply involved in redress in grievances of the complainants and providing relief to the public affected by maladministration prevailing in public sector in Punjab. According to the Ombudsman Punjab Annual Report, 2016, the total number of complaints received in the last 20 years stands at 268,792. Out of which 265,685 have been disposed of during the said years while 3,107 complaints are pending. The increased trend of complaints received in the Office of Ombudsman has shown confidence of general public towards this institution for redressal of their grievances. The report has further revealed that in total, 66% of the complaints were disposed of after thorough investigation whereas 34% of the complaints were found non-maintainable in preliminary investigation.

On the basis of preceding discussion, it can be held that the institution of Ombudsman is playing a vital role in dispensation of justice in most of the countries of the world. It is primarily concerned with the diagnoses, investigation, redress and rectification of any injustice done to a person through maladministration of a Government Agency. The Ombudsman Punjab has also, over the last two decades, proved to be an effective and efficient grievance redressal mechanism and has rendered invaluable service to the common man by providing relief against maladministration of the government departments/agencies. The highly appreciable performance of the institution during the last 20 years is a vivid evidence of its commitment to provide free and speedy justice.