Questions related to legality and/or procedures involved
Does the complainant have to appear in person during investigation of complaint?
No. The law permits a complainant to be represented by someone but the representative must have a written authorization for this purpose. Even otherwise the complainants are not required to be present on each date of hearing. Only at the time of joint hearing are the complainants required to be present, for which notice is issued to them.
How long does a complaint take to decide?
All possible efforts are being made to undertake and complete the investigation without undue delay. The Office monitors performance targets for different Investigating Officers. It takes a maximum period of about four months to complete investigation (with some complex cases excepted) but many complaints are disposed of much earlier.
By whom can complaints be lodged in the office?
Any person aggrieved of maladministration committed by an Agency of the Punjab Government (Exceptions are mentioned separately in answer to the next question) can lodge a complaint.
In addition, the Ombudsman undertakes investigation on a reference by the Government or the Provincial Assembly, or on a motion of the Supreme Court or the High Court made during the course of any proceedings before it, or of his own motion into any allegation of maladministration of an Agency or any of its officers or employees.
Against which Departments can the Ombudsman Punjab entertain complaints?
The Ombudsman can entertain complaints against an Agency which means a Department, Commission or office of the Government of the Punjab or a statutory corporation or other institutions established or controlled by it but DOES NOT include:
- – the High Court and courts working under the supervision and control of the High Court, and the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab and its Secretariat.(Section 2 of Act X. 1997)
Is it mandatory to first approach higher officers of the Department / Agency concerned for redress of grievances prior to filing a complaint before the Ombudsman?
It is not mandatory to first approach the higher officers of the Department/Agency to seek redress of grievance of maladministration. A complaint can be filed before the Ombudsman in respect of an unredressed grievance of maladministration. It is for the aggrieved person to decide as in which order he wants to take up his grievance for redressal.
Can a govt. servant also approach the office of the Ombudsman for redressal of his grievances against his own or any other Department?
A government servant can also approach the office of the Ombudsman for redressal of his grievances against his own or any other department. However, this Office can not entertain complaint by or on behalf of a public servant or functionary concerning any matters relating to the Agency in which he is, or has been, working, in respect of any personal grievance relating to his service therein. The process of recruitment and recommendation for appointment, if involves maladministration, can also be challenged.
Is there any provision in the law to punish those who lodge false and frivolous complaints?
Section 14(4) envisages that where the Ombudsman finds the complaint to be frivolous or vexatious, he may award reasonable compensation to the Agency, public servant or other functionary against whom the complaint was made and the amount of such compensation shall be recoverable from the complainant as arrears of land revenue.
What type of evidence is required to prove the allegations contained in the complaint?
The parties to be complaint can produce before the Investigating Officer:
- – documentary evidence duly attested.
- – affidavit by the witnesses duly attested.
What authority does the Ombudsman exercise to compel any person to attend the proceedings and produce the requisite record?
Section 14 of the Act prescribes the authority of the Ombudsman which he can exercise to compel any person to attend the proceedings and produce requisite record. The Ombudsman has, for the purposes of this Act, the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in respect of the following matters:
- – summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person ad examining him on oath;
- – compelling the production of documents;
- – receiving evidence on affidavits; andissuing commission for the examination of witnesses.
Can the Ombudsman compel any person/Agency to produce the secret information/documents before the investigating officer?
For the purpose of investigation under the Act, the Ombudsman may require any officer or member of the Agency concerned to furnish any information or to produce any document which in the opinion of the Ombudsman is relevant and helpful in the conduct of the investigation and there shall be no obligation to maintain secrecy in respect of disclosure of any information or document for the purposes of such investigation:
Provided that the Government may, in its discretion, on grounds of its being a state secret, allow a claim of privilege with respect to any information or document.