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Contempt: non compliance of ombudsman’s order

By Shivendra Pratap Singh

Question: I had filed the case in ombudsman against LIC of India in which award was passed(on 28.08.2019) in my favor but LIC did not follow that and told me that they are going in high court against it but it’s been more than 11 months since any action has taken from LIC or ombudsman. What to do for non compliance of ombudsman’s order? I have complained about this to both the authorities but no resolution has come up. No PIL no. has been shared with me by LIC.

Question from: New Delhi

The Ombudsman when deciding disputes between the parties does not act like a court. It is an extra judicial institution. The Ombudsman takes remedial measures and redresses the grievances of a citizen. it does not frame charges and demand evidence from the opposite party. The awards of Ombudsman relate to deficiency in service and maladministration. It does not adjudicate the legal right of the complainant. 

The award of ombudsman has much significance. It directs the opposite party to do a certain act in a certain manner. Concerned parties must respect the order and execute it according to law. If there is any defect in the order, the aggrieved party can move an appeal before the Appellate Authority. The limitation period for filing of appeal is thirty days. Hence, the aggrieved party must file an appeal within the limitation period. 

The Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) is denying the order of the ombudsman. LIC is not sincere about the compliance of that order. Therefore, you can again approach the internal ombudsman for implementation of its order. 

Contempt petition for non compliance of ombudsman’s order

You cannot file a contempt petition for non compliance of ombudsman’s order. The Ombudsman, however, is a dispute redressal body but it is not a court. The High Court admits the contempt petition against non-compliance of order of its subordinate courts. Section 10 of the Contempt of Courts Act 1971, empowers the High Court to punish contempt of subordinate courts. The Ombudsman is not a subordinate court of the High Court in matters relating to contempt. 

Section 10. Power of High Court to punish contempt of subordinate courts.- Every High Court shall have and exercise the same jurisdiction, powers and authority, in accordance with the same procedure and practice, in respect of contempt of courts subordinate to it as it has and exercises in respect of contempt of itself;

Provided that no High Court shall take cognizance of a contempt alleged to have been committed in respect of a court subordinate to it where such contempt is an offence punishable under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).

Contempt of Courts Act

In Meqbool Hussain v. State of Bombay 1953 the Supreme Court has held that if a tribunal has the power to give definitive judgment which has finality and authoritativeness. That tribunal is said to be a court.

The Ombudsman however, receives complaints but it’s order lacks authoritativeness. It can call the concerned officer of the department in the matter. But it does not punish the guilty officer for non compliance of its order. It cannot issue a warrant, summon or take evidence on oath etc. 

Thus, you cannot file a contempt petition against the non-compliance of the order of the Ombudsman. You can file an application before the Ombudsman for the implementation of its order.

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