How far do you agree with the view that tribunals curtail the jurisdiction of ordinary courts? In view of the above, discuss the constitutional validity and competency of the tribunals in India. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comments:

  • In the 1st part of the main body, define a tribunal, with examples.
  • Mention their constitutional role and validity
  • Explain how tribunals curtail jurisdiction of courts.
  • End the answer with a balanced way forward and conclusion.
  • https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/devaluing-high-courts/article19944799.ece

Answer:

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down in entirety Rules framed by the government under the Finance Act of 2017 to alter the appointments to 19 key judicial tribunals, including the Central Administrative Tribunal.

What are Tribunals?

Tribunals are quasi-judicial duties created by the 42nd Amendment Act which added Articles 323A(Administrative Tribunals) and 323B(Tribunals of other matter).

Constitutional Validity of Tribunals

The Supreme Court in landmark L. Chandra Kumar case (1997) held that the Tribunals constituted either under Article 323A or under Article 323B of the Constitution, possess constitutional validity.

How do the Tribunals curtail the jurisdiction of ordinary courts?

  • Being a quasi-judicial body Tribunals go against the Doctrine of Separation of Powers and allows dilution of judicial mechanism – the exclusive arena of ordinary courts.
  • The Supreme Court (SC) in Chandra Kumar case (1997) held that the power of the High Court (HC) under Article 226 and 227 to exercise judicial superintendence over the decisions of all courts and tribunals is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. However, decisions of some of the tribunals, like National Green Tribunal continue to be taken on appeal only before the SC bypassing the HC as Court of Appeal, depriving them of their power of judicial review.
  • Conferring a direct right of appeal to the SC from tribunals has changed the SC from a constitutional court to a mere appellate court and has also resulted in a backlog of cases.

Competency of Tribunals

Tribunals like NGT, NCLAT, CAT have emerged as efficient institutions of rendering justice due to benefits such as:

  • Flexibility of procedure – as rigid procedures and evidence ordeals of courts are not followed, rather it goes by the principle of natural justice.
  • Provide efficiency in dispensing justice due to cost and time effectiveness.
  • Unburdening of judiciary– They have helped in significantly reducing the burden of the judiciary, though appeals can be made there.
  • Specialisation through expert involvement – saves time and increases effectiveness.

However, Tribunals are often criticized for issues such as:

  • Appeal: Administrative tribunals were originally set up to provide specialized justice delivery and to reduce the burden of caseloads on regular courts. However, appeals from tribunals have inevitably managed to enter the mainstream judicial system.
  • High Pendency: Many tribunals also do not have adequate infrastructure to work smoothly and perform the functions originally envisioned leading to high pendency rates thus proving unfruitful to deliver quick justice.
  • Appointments: Appointments to tribunals are usually under the control of the executive.
  • Functioning: There is a lack of information available on the functioning of tribunals. Websites are routinely non-existent, unresponsive or not updated.
  • Accessibility is low due to scant geographic availability therefore justice becomes expensive and difficult.

Despite such challenges, tribunals are great resources in rendering justice in government, reducing conflicts and disputes related to public officials who are agents of good governance. 

They can be reformed through processes such as:

  • Qualifications: In Union of India vs. R. Gandhi (2010), the Supreme Court said that when the existing jurisdiction of a court is transferred to a tribunal, its members should be persons of a rank, capacity and status as nearly as possible equal to the rank, status and capacity of the court.
  • Independence: The administrative support for all Tribunals should be from the Ministry of Law & Justice. Neither the Tribunals nor its members shall seek or be provided with facilities from the respective sponsoring or parent Ministries or concerned Department.
  • Accessibility: Tribunals must have benches in different parts so as to ensure that they are accessible.
  • Appointments to members: should be done by an impartial and independent selection committee.

Given their benefits, tribunals should be revamped keeping in mind the 272nd Law Commission report for the restructuring of tribunals and the ruling of SC in Chandra Kumar Case and bringing tribunals under independent agency. Hence, tribunals are meant to supplement ordinary courts and cannot supplant them.

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Akankhya Behera
Akankhya Behera
2 years ago

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Shambhavi
Shambhavi
2 years ago

Please review.
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Shambhavi
Shambhavi
2 years ago
Reply to  Parth Verma

I have uploaded again. Please check. Thank you. I found it a bit difficult to attempt this question. How should I go about such a question and what points should be covered?

Shambhavi
Shambhavi
2 years ago
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Shambhavi
Shambhavi
2 years ago
Reply to  Shambhavi

*not checked* @Parth Verma