The Supreme Court has expressed displeasure with the Central Government regarding the Tribunal. The court said that the government is making the tribunal powerless by not taking appointments. Many tribunals are on the verge of closure. We are deeply saddened by these circumstances. At the same time, the court said that now we have only three options.
First of all – let us stop the law. Second- We should close the Tribunal and hand over all the powers to the Court. Third- Let us make an appointment ourselves. Due to a shortage of members, work in tribunals like NCLT and NCLAT has come to a standstill.
240 posts are vacant in tribunals
240 posts of members are vacant in tribunals across the country. If the government appoints these posts, then the pending cases will come down and the cases pending for years will be resolved soon.
What is the whole matter?
In 2017, the central government introduced the Finance Act. Through this act, several tribunals were merged. After the merger, the number of tribunals was reduced from 26 to 19. Through this act, the central government also got the powers to make rules related to the appointment and qualifications of the chairperson and members in tribunals.
The court had canceled the new rules
In February 2021, the central government introduced the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Bill in the Lok Sabha, but the bill could not be passed during the budget session in Parliament, so an ordinance was brought in April with similar provisions. The Madras Bar Association filed a petition against this ordinance. The court, hearing the petition, gave a 2:1 verdict and struck down the provision of tenure of members in the tribunal.
The government passed the Tribunal Reforms Act in the monsoon session of Parliament. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 9 August. The provisions of the ordinance which were canceled by the Supreme Court, the same provisions have now been brought by the government through a new law. The Supreme Court has expressed displeasure over this. Along with this, objections have also been raised regarding the vacant two hundred and fifty posts in the tribunals.
What is the dispute about?
The dispute is over the tenure and age of the members of the Tribunal and the Chairperson. The term of the member and the Speaker has been given as 4 years in the Bill. Also, the maximum age has been reduced to 70 years for the chairman and 67 years for the member. The minimum age has also been increased to 50 years. Experts believe that by doing this the government is trying to increase its control over the judiciary. In 2019, the Supreme Court had also said that the short tenure of members, with provisions for reappointment, increases the executive’s influence and control over the judiciary.
What is a Tribunal?
Simply put, tribunals are judicial and quasi-judicial institutions established by law, created to deal with matters relating to certain subjects. The purpose of setting up the tribunal is to reduce the burden on the courts and speedy trial of cases. Decisions in tribunals are also taken quickly. The tribunal has many functions, such as – settling disputes, determining rights between contesting parties, taking administrative decisions, reviewing existing administrative decisions, etc.
According to legal matters expert Virag Gupta, tribunals are specialist courts that have the power of a civil court and can hear cases at the level of the High Court, but tribunals are constituted by law. Whereas High Court and Supreme Court are Constitutional Courts. Therefore, the order of the Tribunal can be challenged in the High Court.
Difference between court and tribunal
Tribunals are expert courts that have the power of a civil court, but the jurisdiction of a tribunal is less than that of a court. Tribunals are subject and expertise-based and are usually consist of a technical member who is an expert in the subject and a judicial member who is an expert in law. That is, the Tribunal consists of an expert in law and an expert in the subject. Since courts are generally not so finicky about a subject, tribunals are formed. Like Income Tax Tribunal for tax-related matters, National Green Tribunal for environmental matters.
Provisions in the constitution
Tribunals were not a part of the original constitution. The Tribunal was included in the Constitution through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976. Article 323-A empowered the Parliament to constitute Administrative Tribunals. Administrative tribunals can be constituted for both the Center and the states. At the same time, in Article 323-B, on 8 matters like tax, foreign exchange, import-export, and land reforms, Parliament or State Legislature can set up tribunals by making laws. However, in India, the tribunal is already functioning before independence. The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal was constituted in 1941.
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How is the appointment in the Tribunal done?
The Chairperson and Members of the Tribunal are appointed on the basis of the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Committee. The Selection Committee of Central Tribunals may be headed by the Chief Justice of India or by a Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him. Apart from the chairman, two secretaries nominated by the central government are also members. Along with these the current Chairperson or Judge of the Supreme Court or retired Chief Justice of High Court and Secretary of the Ministry under which the Tribunal is being constituted can also become the members of the committee.
Similarly, there is a separate Search-cum-Selection Committee for State Tribunals. The Chief Justice of the State High Court will be the chairman of these committees. The Chairman of the State Public Service Commission, the outgoing Chairperson of the Tribunal or retired Judge of the High Court, and the Secretary or Principal Secretary of the General Administrative Department of the State are part of the Committee.
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