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(äm`bədzmən) [Swed.,=agent or representative], public official appointed to deal with individual complaints against government acts. The office originated in Sweden in 1809 when the Swedish legislature created a riksdagens justitieombudsman, or parliamentary agent of justice, and in the 20th cent. it was adopted by a number of countries. As a government agent serving as an intermediary between citizens and the government bureaucracy, the ombudsman is usually independent, impartial, universally accessible, and empowered only to recommend. In the United States the term ombudsman has been used more widely to describe any machinery adopted by private organizations (e.g., large business corporations and universities) as well as by government to investigate complaints of administrative abuses. In 1969, Hawaii became the first of many American states to appoint an ombudsman.


See studies by G. Sawyer (2d ed. 1968), F. Stacey (1978), and D. C. Rowat (2d ed. 1986).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in bourgeois states, an official empowered by the constitution or a special law to oversee the workings of government institutions, ministries, and departments. The position of ombudsman was first provided for in the Swedish Constitution of 1809.

In most countries the ombudsman acts nominally on behalf of the parliament, on the initiative of individuals or legal entities that have approached him. The official title of the position of such a government supervisor varies: for example, in France, intermédiaire, and in Great Britain, New Zealand, and India, “parliamentary commissioner” (plenipotentiary). In some countries there are several ombudsmen, each of whom is assigned a certain sphere of administration (in Sweden, for example, there are civil, military, and consumer ombudsmen). Ombudsmen are elected by parliament or appointed by the head of state. In monitoring the actions of officials in the government apparatus, the ombudsman does not have the right to revoke their decisions, but he can make recommendations. In most countries the ombudsmen’s control is very limited; it does not cover the activities of the government, ministers, foreign-policy departments, the police, or municipal agencies.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a commissioner who acts as independent referee between individual citizens and their government or its administration
2. (in Britain) an official, without power of sanction or mechanism of appeal, who investigates complaints of maladministration by members of the public against national or local government or its servants
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
If PM Modi had any desire to put in place a strong mechanism against corruption, all he needed to do was to implement the Lok Pal law.
Addressing residents of Ralegan Siddhi after unfurling the national flag on the occasion of India's Republic Day, Hazare said: "I will continue to fight for a strong Jan Lok Pal bill until it is passed by Parliament.
He said the Lok Pal Bill and others that are yet to be cleared by the cabinet and the GoM could be taken up later.
By the end of the year, Anna's movement - India Against Corruption (IAC) - was fizzling out as the Jan Lok Pal proposal was now with the UPA government.
Elaborating, Bhushan said: "The Team Anna would create awareness among people on issues like: why did we take the stand that we took on the Jan [people's] Lok Pal bill issue?
I was not convinced about either Total Revolution or Hazare's demand for Lok Pal. True, corruption had reached dizzying heights in India.
Rane's sensational charge comes in the run up to Hazare's move to go on a day's fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on December 11 and an indefinite fast that he has proposed to undertake at Ramlila Maidan from December 27, in the event of the Government failing to bring in a strong Lok Pal bill during the ongoing winter session.
New Delhi, April 9 -- Even as social activist Anna Hazare's fast against corruption entered the fifth day on Friday, there were hectic activities in New Delhi with the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stepping in to end the stalemate on Lok Pal Bill.
It has urged the politicians to ensure that a Lokayukta is appointed in every state and early introduction of the Lok Pal Bill at the national level.
Apart from this, the UPA has given people Right to Information, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for the poor, Food Security Act, Lok Pal Act, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition - Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, and so on.
The Lok Pal Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha (lower house of Indian parliament), was taken up for a discussion and vote in the Rajya Sabha (upper house) on December 29 last year, which was also the last day of the winter session.