reforms-in-tribunals

Context- In as many as nine laws, Recently, Centre has replaced the Appellate authorities, in as many as nine laws and invested those powers in the High Court through the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021, which was promulgated on 4th April 2021. 

Background 

  • These laws are Cinematograph Act; Copyright Act; Customs Act; Patents Act; Airports Authority of India Act; Trade Marks Act; Geographical Indications of Goods (registration and protection) Act; Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act and Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act. 
  • Amendments have been introduced to the Finance Act 2017 involving the qualifications and tenure of the Chairperson and members of Tribunals.  
  • The tenure of Chairperson of a Tribunal has been fixed for a term of four years or till the age of 70, whichever is earlier. Members of a tribunal will also have a tenure of four years or until they turn 67. 

About Tribunals

  • A tribunal is an administrative body that is established for the purpose of discharging quasi judicial duties. 
  • The original constitution of India did not have provisions with respect to tribunals. 
  • They were added in the Constitution through the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 under Article 323-A (Administrative Tribunals) and Article 323-B (Other Tribunals). 
  • These perform a number of functions such as adjudicate  disputes, determine rights between contesting parties, make an administrative decision, review an existing administrative division, etc. 

Tribunals in India

Administrative Tribunals 

  • Such tribunals were set-up through an act passed by the Parliament of India Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.  
  • It owes its origin to Article 323 A of the Constitution. 
  • It adjudicates the disputes and complaints regarding the recruitment and conditions of service of persons who are appointed to the public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union and the States. 
  • The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 provides for three types of tribunals: 
  • The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) established by the Central government. 
  • The Central Government may, upon receipt of a request from any State Government in this behalf, establish an administrative tribunal for such employees from the state. 
  • Two or more States might also ask for a joint tribunal, which is called the Joint Administrative Tribunal (JAT),that has powers of administrative tribunals for all the requesting States. 

There are tribunals for the purpose of settling various administrative and tax-related disputes, like the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), National Green Tribunal (NGT), Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) and Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), etc.

There are tribunals for the purpose of settling various administrative and tax-related disputes, like the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), National Green Tribunal (NGT), Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) and Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), etc. 

Central Administrative Tribunal 

  • It has the jurisdiction to deal with matters that related to services pertaining to the Central Government employees or of any Union Territory, or local or other government under the control of the Government of India, or of a corporation owned or controlled by the Central Government. 
  • It was set-up on 1 November 1985. 
  • It has 17 regular benches, 15 that operate at the principal seats of High Courts and the other two at Jaipur and Lucknow. 
  • These Benches also hold circuit sittings at other seats of High Courts.  
  • Composition of a Tribunal- Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Members. 
  • The Members of CAT are drawn from both judicial and administrative streams with the purpose of giving the Tribunal the benefit of expertise in both legal as well as administrative spheres. 
  • The appeals against the orders of an Administrative Tribunal are made before the Division Bench of the respective High Court where the Tribunal sits. 

State Administrative Tribunal 

  • Article 323 B of the Constitution of India empowers the state legislatures to set up tribunals for various matters such as levy, assessment, collection and enforcement of any of the tax matters in connection with land reforms (covered by Article 31A). 

SIGNIFICANCE OF TRIBUNALS 

  • Flexibility- The tribunals do not follow the rigid procedures and evidence audience of courts and go by the principle of natural justice for adjudication. 
  • Less expensive- Administrative justice through tribunals ensures cheap and quick justice as the procedures followed by them are simple and can be easily understood by a layman. 
  • Relief the Courts- The tribunals have eased down the burden on the already overburdened courts with numerous suits. 
  • Adequate justice- Administrative tribunals have come to be the most appropriate means of administrative action in the fast changing world of today and they are also the most effective means of giving fair justice to the individuals. 

CHALLENGES 

  • The tribunals lack sufficient autonomy in their functioning especially in terms of appointment and funding. 
  • The Supreme Court in Chandra Kumar case, held that the appeals made to such tribunal lies before the courts and this defeats the whole purpose of reducing the burden of the superior courts. 
  • Since the tribunals are mainly chaired by the retired judges appointed by the government, it may act as an allurement to the present judges who may favor the government in certain matters to gain political patronage and get appointed to such tribunals after their retirement. 
  • The tribunals lack adequate infrastructure to facilitate their smooth work and functions that are originally envisioned for them. 
  • It is often found that there is a lack of understanding of the staffing requirements of the tribunals. 

WAY FORWARD

  • The traditional structures and methods of functioning of tribunals need to be reformed to ensure better justice delivery. 
  • There needs to be some kind of judicial control over these tribunals in the interest of maintaining the rule of law and society and preserving the individual freedom 
  • The number of judges must be increased, the existing vacancies need to be filled, and technology must be used to bring in efficiency in the administration of justice. 
  • Tribunals themselves are better positioned to gauge their own administrative requirements. Therefore, they must be provided with the power to tribunals to create our sanction posts. 

Source: The Hindu