By: Ibni Maqbool
Srinagar: Nearly 14 months after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) amended the laws governing appointment of ombdusman in Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies in Jammu & Kashmir, the administration of the Union Territory is yet to make the two crucial appointments to ensure transparency and accountability in local bodies.
Officials told The Precious Kashmir that the government is yet to make the appointments of ombdusman in Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies to probe allegations of corruption and maladministration in them.
“These appointments are necessary to ensure transparency and accountability in functioning of Panchayat Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies in the UT,” they said, adding that the government had initiated the process for appointment of ombudsman for Panchayati Raj Institutions(PRIs) in November last year.
The government had constituted a panel headed by Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar (advisor to Lieutenant Governor) and comprising Farooq Khan (advisor to LG), Baseer Ahmad Khan (advisor to LG) and chief secretary to finalize recommendation for appointment of ombdusman for PRIs. The recommendation was to be submitted to LG, who is the appointing authority for the post.
The post of ombdusman for PRIs is vacant from October 2019 after tenure of KB Aggarwal(former IAS officer) was cut short by reorganization of the erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir.Agarwal was appointed as first ombdusman for PRIs in March 2019.
Similarly, the post of ombdusman in Urban Local Bodies was vacant from 2010 when the NC-Congress government enacted a law for setting up the institution to probe charges of corruption or maladministration in municipal councils, committees and corporations.
It is pertinent to mention that the Ministry of Home Affairs had amended the laws enacted by the NC- Congress regime in 2010 and 2014 for appointment of ombdusman. The amendment was carried out by the MHA to facilitate appointment of ombudsman when J&K is without an elected regime.
According to the amendments, the ombudsman shall be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor on the recommendation of a committee comprising advisors and chief secretary.
Earlier, the law provided that the ombudsman was to be appointed after the chief minister tenders advice to the Governor in consultation with the chairman of the Legislative Council, the speaker of the Legislative Assembly and the leader of the opposition in the Legislative Assembly.