From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Quasi-Judicial Bodies
Mains level : Quasi-Judicial Bodies and its Challenges
- There is a class of quasi-judicial agencies that are not discussed in conversations on the pendency of cases. Their failure to administer speedy justice leads to harassment of citizens, besides abetting criminal activity by unscrupulous elements.
- Role of adjudicating the law: A quasi-judicial body is “an organ of Government other than a Court or Legislature, which affects the rights of private parties either through adjudication or rulemaking”.
- Not a court of law: It is not mandatory that a Quasi-Judicial Body has to necessarily be an organization resembling a Court of Law. For example, the Election Commission of India is also a Quasi-Judicial Body but does not have its core functions as a Court of Law.
- Some examples of Quasi-Judicial Bodies: Election Commission of India, National Green Tribunal, Central Information Commission (CIC), Lok Adalat etc.
Functioning of quasi-judicial bodies
- Supervise the administrative disputes: They primarily oversee the administrative zones. The courts have the power to supervise over all types of disputes but the quasi-judicial bodies are the ones with the powers of imposing laws on administrative agencies.
- Lessen the burden on courts: These bodies support to lessen the burden of the courts. Quasi-judicial activity is restricted to the issues that concern the particular administrative agency. Quasi-judicial action may be appealed to a court of law.
- Limited role of adjudication: Their powers are usually limited to a particular area of expertise, such as financial markets, employment laws, public standards, immigration, or regulation.
- Rules of justice are pre-determined: Awards and judgements of quasi-judicial bodies often depend on a pre-determined set of rules or punishment depending on the nature and gravity of the offence committed.
- Its award can be challenged in court: Such punishment may be legally enforceable under the law of a country it can be challenged in a court of law which is the final vital authority.
Problems faced by quasi-judicial authorities
- Understaffing of bodies: The maladies that these agencies suffer from are far graver than judicial set-ups, as they are staffed by revenue authorities who have several other functions. Usually, many of these offices are understaffed.
- More administrative and less judicial work: Their engagement with duties such as law and order, protocol, coordination and other administrative functions leaves them with much less time for court work.
- Limited access to records: Their access to court clerks and record keepers is limited. Computers and video recorders are not available in many of these courts. Only a few states such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have electronic platforms for supporting activities such as the filing of cases, publication of cause lists and sending summons.
- Lack of knowledge about procedures: Several of the presiding officers lack proper knowledge of law and procedures which has landed many a civil servant in deep trouble in sensitive matters such as those related to arms licences.
- Data is unavailable: Data on the level of pendency or the speed of disposal is not compiled in many states. This is why there is scarcely any attempt to increase staff strength. There is hardly any public scrutiny say by the press or legislature.
How to improve the functioning of Quasi-judicial bodies?
- Priority of the government: The government should make the efficient functioning of these agencies a priority and clearly articulate its position on the issue.
- Collection of data is must: Detailed data on the functioning of these agencies must be collected and published from time to time at least annually.
- Digitization of judicial data: An electronic platform should be established to handle all ancillary work related to the administration of justice, such as filing of complaints, issue of summons, movement of case records between courts, issuing copies of the judgments and so on.
- Mandatory annual inspection: annual inspections of the subordinate courts should be made mandatory. This should be an important indicator for assessment by the superior authority.
- Study on functioning of this bodies: Interdisciplinary research on the functioning of these courts should be encouraged. This would identify the areas of improvement such as legal reforms or issue of clear guidelines.
- Time to time training of authorities: Regular training and orientation of the adjudicating authorities should be taken up from time to time.
- State performance index should be published: The state index of performance of these quasi-judicial courts be made and published.
- Online publication of awards by authorities: Important decisions, guidelines and directions could be compiled and published on the portal of the apex adjudicating forum such as the Board of Revenue.
- Rigorous induction training: More rigorous induction training of officials handling judicial work would help. The importance of judicial work should be instilled among the trainees and the skill and confidence in handling them should be developed.
- Procedural reforms: Procedural reforms such as minimizing adjournments, mandatory filing of written arguments and other such reforms proposed by bodies like the Law Commission for reform of the Civil Procedure Code should be adopted by these adjudicating bodies.
- Quasi-judicial bodies form the substantial institutions of judicial system. It is regularly side-lined when we talk about the judicial reforms. If we could make our quasi-judicial bodies function properly and efficiently, it will reduce the burden on High courts and Supreme court.
Q. Why the quasi-judicial bodies are underperforming in India? Which steps are needed to improve the functioning of quasi-judicial bodies?