Govt to appoint Ombudsman for protecting rights of AIDS patients

*Frames rules under Central Act

Govind Sharma

JAMMU, Aug 14: To protect the rights of HIV/AIDS patients and to ensure that they are not deprived of free diagnostic facilities, the Lt Governor of J&K UT today framed rules under Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act passed by the Parliament of India in the year 2017.
Under the rules called J&K Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Ombudsman and Legal Proceedings) Rules 2020, an Ombudsman will be appointed by the J&K Government which will deal with all the complaints regarding free diagnostic facilities to HIV/AIDs patients and their other rights.
As per the rules of the Act, any retired District or Sessions Judge may be designated as Ombudsman. According to the rules, any officer not below the rank of Director Health Services from Health and Medical Education Department may also be appointed as Ombudsman but in that case the Department of Law of J&K UT shall provide him the assistance on legal issues, as and when required by him.
“Any person may make a complaint to the Ombudsman within three months from the date of alleged violation, in writing in accordance with the form set out, however, the Ombudsman may receive complaints made in person, via post, telephonically or through electronic form through Ombudsman’s website,” the rules said and added “The Ombudsman may extend the time limit to make the complaint by a further period of three months, if he is satisfied that circumstances prevented the complainant from making the complaint within the stipulated period”.
As per rules, in cases of medical emergency, the Ombudsman or his assistant may visit the complainant at the location of the alleged violation or any other convenient place to enable written documentation of the complaint.
The rules framed under Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act gives the Ombudsman power to pass interim orders in cases of medical emergency without hearing the parties. The Ombudsman can pass the orders including withdrawal and rectification of the violation, counseling, social service, etc.
While inquiring into complaints under the Act, the Ombudsman shall not be bound by any rules of evidence and may follow such procedure as he considers just and proper. In the interests of justice, the Ombudsman may also take the assistance of experts, including protected persons and persons vulnerable to HIV, and persons working in the fields of HIV and AIDS, public health or health delivery systems. No cross-examination shall be permitted in inquiries before the Ombudsman.
As per the Act, the Ombudsman shall hold the office for a term of three years and his term may be extended by three more years provided that he has not attained the age of 70 years.
“The salary and allowances of the Ombudsman shall be disbursed by the Health and Medical Education Department of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” says the rules of the Act.