ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday signed into law “the Federal Ombudsmen Institutional Reforms Bill, 2013” which further ensures expeditious disposal of complaints of the citizens, streamlining the procedure for representation against the decisions of various Mohtasibs, besides giving citizens the right to move a review petition against the findings of the Ombudsman.
The President signed the bill during a special signing ceremony held here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, that was attended among others by acting Wafaqi Mohtasib Salman Faruqui, federal and provincial ombudsmen, Federal Law Minister Farook H Naek, Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar and other high officials.
Spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar said that henceforth, the office of the Wafaqi Mohtasib will never fall vacant as it has been ensured under the new law that the grievances of the people against maladministration are heard in perpetuity.
He said that under the law, the Ombudsman shall have fixed tenure of four years however the incumbent Ombudsman shall continue to hold office after the expiry of his tenure till the new Ombudsman enters upon the office.
This, the spokesperson said, has been done to avoid complaints from piling up during the period of interregnum between the expiry of tenure of an Ombudsman and appointment of a successor.
The ombudsmen after the expiry of his four year term will not be eligible for re-appointment or extension and that the removal of Ombudsman from his office would be through Supreme Judicial Council on grounds of being incapable of properly performing duties by reasons of physical or mental incapacity or if found to have been guilty of misconduct.
The President on the occasion congratulated the Parliament, all political parties in the parliament and the institution of ombudsman on the enactment of “the Federal Ombudsmen Institutional Reforms Bill, 2013” into law, which he said, would go a long way in the provision of free of cost justice and giving maximum relief to the citizens through prompt disposal of citizen complaints followed by effective implementation of decisions.
Giving details, Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the institution of federal ombudsman was established in 1983 and presently, there are twelve (12) Ombudsmen in Pakistan, established under separate acts of the parliament and the respective provincial assemblies included Wafaqi Mohtasib (Ombudsman), Federal Tax Ombudsman, Banking Mohtasib, Federal Insurance Mohtasib, Federal Ombudsman for Protection Against Harassment of Women at Work place, Provincial Ombudsman, Punjab, Provincial Ombudsman, Sindh, Provincial Ombudsman, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, Provincial Ombudsman,
Balochistan, Ombudsman of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Provincial Ombudsman, Sindh, for Protection Against Harassment of Women at Work place and Punjab Ombudsman, for Protection Against Harassment of Women at Work place.
The Spokesperson said that over a period of time, a need has been felt to improve upon the laws to make them more citizens friendly and for prompt disposal of citizen complaints followed by effective implementation of relief, if any, granted by the concerned Ombudsman.
He said that a new law for the purpose of standardization of the statutes relating to the Ombudsmen has been enacted which will have an overriding effect on the federal laws presently in force while provincial legislatures shall be at liberty to amend their respective legal instruments .
The new law will not only strengthen the institution but will also enhance effectiveness of the Federal Ombudsman in providing speedy and expeditious relief to citizens by redressing their grievances to promote good governance.
The Spokesperson said that new law further reinforces the process of redressal of the public complaints as under this law the period for processing the case and decision thereon has been reduced to only 60 days as against the present law where no time frame was provided and the decision process could take years to be completed.
The law also provides for the appointment/designation of an officer not below BPS-21 as Grievance Commissioner in an Agency against which a large number of complaints are received persistently. As a test case, the spokesperson said that a Grievance Commissioner for CDA has already been appointed in view of a large number of complaints received persistently against the institution.
Under the new law, mechanism for implementations of Ombudsman findings has also been put in place as now in addition to powers exercised by Ombudsman under the relevant legislation, he shall also have powers of a civil court, in terms of granting temporary injunctions and implementation of the recommendations, orders or decisions.
An Ombudsman shall have power to punish for contempt as provided in the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 (V of 2003). The Spokesperson said that the Ombudsman shall have the power to review any findings, recommendations, order or decision on a review petition made by an aggrieved party within thirty days of the findings.
In a related event at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, President Asif Ali Zardari administered oath to Justice (Retd) Yasmeen Abbasey as the federal ombudsman for protection against harassment of women at work-place and Anisul Hassnain Moosvi as the Banking Mohtasib.
Later, the President also inaugurated the newly constructed building of Wafaqi Mohtasib Secretariat located at the Constitution Avenue Islamabad. Previously the Office of Wafaqi Mohtasib was located in old building at Benevolent Fund Building, Zero Point, Islamabad.