Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism – NCA, Lok Adalats, etc.

It is time to set up a National Tribunals Commission

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tribunals

Mains level : Paper 2- Need for the National Tribunals Commissions

Context

  • The Centre has abolished several appellate tribunals and authorities and transferred their jurisdiction to other existing judicial bodies through the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021.

Issues with the abolitions of tribunals

  • The Ordinance has met with sharp criticism for not bypassing the usual legislative process.
  • Several tribunals such as the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal were abolished without any stakeholder consultation. 
  • Despite the Supreme Court’s direction in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank (2019), no judicial impact assessment was conducted prior to abolishing the tribunals through this Ordinance.
  • While the Ordinance has incorporated the suggestions made in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India (2020) on the composition of a search-cum-selection committee.
  • But it has disregarded the court’s direction in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India (2020) for fixing a five-year term.

No NCT constituted

  • Further, the Centre is yet to constitute a National Tribunals Commission (NTC), an independent umbrella body to supervise the functioning of tribunals, appointment of and disciplinary proceedings against members, and to take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the tribunals.
  • The idea of an NTC was first mooted in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997).
  • Developing an independent oversight body for accountable governance requires a legal framework that protects its independence and impartiality.
  • Therefore, the NTC must be established vide a constitutional amendment or be backed by a statute that guarantees it functional, operational and financial independence.
  • As the Finance Ministry has been vested with the responsibility for tribunals until the NTC is constituted, it should come up with a transition plan. 

Advantages of NTC

  • The NTC would ideally take on some duties relating to administration and oversight.
  • It could set performance standards for the efficiency of tribunals and their own administrative processes.
  • It could function as an independent recruitment body to develop and operationalise the procedure for disciplinary proceedings and appointment of tribunal members.
  • Giving the NTC the authority to set members’ salaries, allowances, and other service conditions, subject to regulations, would help maintain tribunals’ independence.

Consider the question “What are the issues with Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021? How the constitution of the National Tribunals Commission would help to improve the role played by tribunals?” 

Conclusion

The way to reform the tribunal system is to look at solutions from a systemic perspective supported by evidence. Establishing the NTC will definitely entail a radical restructuring of the present tribunals system.

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