Justice at the doorsteps - outreach and accessibility

Wafaqi Mohtasib is a quasi-judicial Institution helping state to fulfill its national and constitutional obligation to provide people cost-effective, expeditious justice

Popularly known as the poor man’s court, the Institution of the Wafaqi Mohtasib is doing a Yeoman’s service with regard to speedy and free of cost resolution of the public complaints against mal-administration.

Established on 24th January, 1983 through a Presidential Order to diagnose, investigate, redress and rectify any injustice done to a person through mal-administration, it has, over the years, established itself as a premier agency of administrative accountability, committed to speedy redressal of public complaints. This quasi-judicial Institution is helping the State fulfill its national and Constitutional obligation regarding provision of cost-effective and expeditious justice for the people, in line with Article 37(d) of the Constitution.

The term mal-administration has been defined in the President’s Order, an act of omission or commission which is: contrary to law, rules or regulations or is a departure from the established practice or procedure, unless it is bonafide and for valid reasons; or is perverse, arbitrary; or unreasonable, unjust, biased, oppressive or discriminatory; or is based on irrelevant grounds; or involves the exercise of powers or failure or refusal to do so for corrupt; or improper motives, such as bribery jobbery, favoritism, nepotism etc; or neglect, inattention, delay incompetence, inefficiency and ineptitude in the administration or discharge of duties and responsibilities.

Addressing mal-administration, therefore, is a means to ensuring sanctity of human rights and achieving the ultimate goals of good governance and the rule of law. The Office of the Wafaqi Mohtasib has proved to be a boon for the people. During the last 41 years of its existence, it has resolved the complaints of more than 2.1 million households. What is most significant is the fact that one does not need to hire a lawyer or to pay any kind of fee to get his or her complaint redressed through this office.

Initially, it has only four Regional Offices respectively at all the provincial headquarters of the country. Today, besides the Head Office at Islamabad, it has 17 Regional Offices and 04 Complaints Collection Centers, covering almost the entire the length and breadth of the country. This office received and processed a record number of complaints during the year 2023, numbering at 194,106, which is a 18% higher than the preceding year. Out of these 193,030, complaints were disposed of, which is 22% higher than the previous year. 88% complaints were disposed of within the prescribed limit of 60 days. It is noteworthy that a system of strict monitoring, follow-up and verification of the implementation of each and every decision is in place.

Accessibility and outreach have been recognized as the most essential characteristics of any Ombuds Institution, according to the UN Resolutions. Mindful of this aspect, the Institution of the Wafaqi Mohtaib is attaching a great deal of significance to providing administrative justice to the people speedily and absolutely free of cost, virtually at their doorsteps. A number of instruments are being employed for this purpose. Amongst these, the Outreach Complaint Resolution (OCR) and the Informal Resolution of Disputes (IRD) alongwith the Khuli Kachries are the two most vital ones, which have benefitted the general public to a great extent.

The Institution widened the scope of its activities relating to the complaint resolution by launching a project in January 2016 by the name of Outreach Complaint Resolution abbreviated as OCR. The field visits of the Investigation Officers and their interaction with the local/district administration, Press and media in presence of the officials of the local administration have contributed significantly in this regard, thereby generating greater awareness about the Wafaqi Mohtasib’s Office. As an extension of the OCR system, the Wafaqi Mohtasib and authorized Officers are also holding “Khuli Kachries” for onthe- spot resolution of the complaints of the aggrieved citizens.

The OCR was launched to provide speedy redressal of the complaints at the doorsteps of the people. During 2023 Regional Offices at Bahawalpur, D.I.Khan, Gujranwala, Hyderabad, Lahore, Multan and Sukkur undertook OCR visits to various remote areas and helped resolve 3149 cases. The Khuli Kachries mechanism is being followed in a fairly regulated manner in the remote areas of the country. During 2023, alone, Khuli Kachries were held in 19 remote districts including Karak, Hangu, Bannu, Kohlu, Turbat, Shangla, Dargai and alike.

As provided for in the Article 33 of the President’s Order of 1983, the IRD project was launched in April, 2022 and its SOPs were subsequently developed. The IRD is another revolutionary step launched by the office of Wafaqi Mohtasib with a view to providing speedy and free of cost relief to the complainants, a majority of whom predominantly belongs to the poor, disadvantaged and marginalized sections of the society. One of its most useful features is that the complainants don’t have to go through the usual procedural and technical formalities. Hence it constitutes a win-win for both the parties. During 2023 alone, nearly 2113 cases were resolved through this mechanism, whereas another 300 are in the pipeline.

The cases resolved under IRD include those of pension for the widows, payment of service dues, payment to contractors/laborers, sub-judice matters where parties agreed to withdraw their respective cases from the courts for settlement under IRD. It would not be out of place to mention that the concept of IRD is akin to the centuries old jirga/panchayat system, where local elders resolved complaints of the rural folk through the force of moral character, social influence and conventional folk wisdom. It offers inexpensive, expeditious and convenient form for resolving disputes, especially for lower strata of the society. It is in a way, out of court settlement and constituted a win-win for both parties. These are being undertaken with the consent of all parties and the same are being settled on the basis of persuasion, conciliation, mediation and arbitration. The entire focus is on outcome rather than process and procedure. It is hoped that as the benefits of the OCR and IRD are become further known to the public, even greater number of people would turn to these for cost free and hasslefree resolution of their complaints.


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