Ombudsman for Panchayats

Now that massive fund base to strengthen the working of the Urban Local Bodies and Panchayats is not only assured but in fact the process of disbursement of funds has started, the Governor’s administration which has transformed the system of administration in Jammu and Kashmir to a larger extent to cater to the needs of the people at large by taking decisions after decisions which were much required, has taken no decision in regard to appointment of an Ombudsman for these institutions to ensure utmost transparency and real end use of the allotted funds. In fact since, no political “atmosphere” was created or could be created by the popular Governments for ensuring elections for Panchayats and ULBs, perhaps the need to appoint an Ombudsman too was not conceded and the one expected to be appointed would be the first ever, the credit for which is again slated to be earned by the Governor’s responsive administration.
It will not be any exaggeration if it is capitulated that looking to the extent of corruption rife in the administrative system, an antidote to contain the levels lie in appointment of such authorities almost in every institution to be vested with extensive powers. Since by strengthening and empowering as also granting full professional autonomy to the Anti Corruption Bureau, that could be a substitute in all the departments but so far as Panchayats and ULBs are concerned, most of the elected representatives of these grass root democratic institutions would themselves require the institution of the Ombudsman to ensure transparency and proper end use of the funds allotted. Moreover, seen in the light of an Act for appointment of Ombudsman having been enacted in the year 2014 to this effect, followed by an amendment in it in December 2018, what is expected is in the light of the legislative framework already in place now, that the appointment must be made in the right earnest as the State Governments showed no inclination towards taking the said Act to logical conclusions till the year 2016 when earlier Panchayats completed their term.
Not dealing with technicalities of the issue any more, we would like to reiterate that the appointment of the Ombudsman at an early date has become imperative looking to the fact of the Central Government having started releasing funds to Panchayats for carrying out developmental works which had been stopped for years together for which an eagle eyed surveillance and the requisite watch ward was necessary. Again, seen in the horizon and the scope of the functioning of Panchayats having been widened and broad based, the office of Ombudsman has become irrefragable. The eligibility criteria would continue to be a Judge of the High Court or eligible to be appointed as Judge of the High Court or an officer retired from the rank of Commissioner/ Secretary to the Government for the post of the Ombudsman to hold office for three years from the date he or she enters the office to take the charge. The age criteria, of course is the limit of 70 years.
Since it is known reliably that no cogent step has been taken so far towards appointment of this much required authority, we would like to impress upon the administration to take forward the Panchayati Raj institution, having got rejuvenated on account of recently held successful elections, to logical ends and arrange to appoint the Ombudsman at an early date. We shall continue to monitor the situation on regular basis.