Mohtasib.pk – Innovating Access To Justice
Courting The Law has developed an online platform Mohtasib.pk which outlines complaint procedures and forwards these complaints to the relevant Ombudsperson (Mohtasib) offices in Pakistan. Mohtasib.pk has been designed to help users assess their eligibility to file an electronic complaint (free of cost) with any of the relevant Mohtasib offices in Pakistan.
The Ombudsperson/Mohtasib is meant to symbolize the interests of the public and help resolve any conflicts that arise between the people and different public authorities. However, there is limited awareness about the Mohtasib offices and their conflict resolution powers. Those who are aware of the Ombudspersons offices often find it difficult to go through the relevant laws and determine their eligibility to file a complaint. The problem is two-fold: firstly, the lack of awareness means that the masses do not have access to justice; secondly, the system is not streamlined so even those with complaints are not always willing to file them.
In many cases, despite there being an option to file a complaint with the Mohtasib, aggrieved parties tend to approach the courts instead. This not only creates a backlog of pending cases and an unnecessary burden on the court but also disrupts the functioning of the justice system. The failure to approach the Mohtasib points to a lack of awareness and lack of access to information. The Annual Ombudsman of Punjab Report states that 25,523 complaints have been received this year, in comparison to the Annual Report 2013 recording a total of 27,658 complaints received. The complaints mostly relate to the Police, Education, Health and Revenue departments. What is important to note is that the failure to provide access to the Mohtasib and the lack of awareness have contributed to the under-filing of complaints i.e. an aggrieved person is unable to access the system due to the problems identified above.
With the aforementioned issues in mind, we devised Mohtasib.pk to serve as an innovative platform that would provide quick and efficient access to justice. Mohtasib.pk leverages technology to do so. An algorithm has been created which helps users understand the complaint filing mechanism by determining their eligibility through an automated questionnaire. This makes it easy to file a complaint from anywhere in Pakistan to the relevant Ombuds office. With freely available access to the requirements of filing a complaint with the Mohtasib, people who are otherwise unable to get professional help can use this platform to get access to justice.
We believe that the dispensation of justice should not be limited to formal court procedures, while access to justice should not be accessible by privileged classes only rather it should be available to the masses. This will save them a lot of economic costs and even aid in poverty alleviation as that money can be used more productively elsewhere. People can be made better aware of the Mohtasib and the dispute resolution system that lies outside litigation. This will, in effect, reduce the burden of receiving complaints that the court cannot entertain and ensure efficient access to justice. Mohtasib.pk offers a standardized system that allows users to file a complaint easily and effectively from our website. The website can further provide premium services for users who wish to request legal representation from us and have us keep a track of their complaints to stay up-to-date. The initiative is aimed at establishing a system that effectively files complaints and helps direct the right complaints to the right Ombudsperson. In the long term, it aims to help strengthen our social and legal justice system by providing easy access to justice.
The Mohtasib offices and their work and achievements remain largely unpublicized in Pakistan. While the federal ombuds office has updated its website and placed complaint forms online, the process is still cumbersome when it comes to assessing the eligibility criteria and identifying the relevant ombudsperson and the entire system lacks public awareness. There have been no initiatives like Mohtasib.pk as, for the first time, it has deveoped an electronic complaint system for the Banking Mohtasib as well. Mohtasib.pk is paving a path to access to justice for all, with a foundation to spread legal awareness about the ombudsperson and connect the masses to the ombudspersons offices nationally.
The concept of Mohtasib.pk was put forward by CTL’s Founder, Barrister Taimur Malik, in discussions with Justice (r) Sajjad Ahmed Sipra, Former Mohtasib Punjab, and implemented by a member of the CTL team, Aksom Zaheer.