Give a brief introduction about Tribunals.
Enumerate issues associated with functioning of tribunals.
Mention solutions to address the issues.
Tribunals were originally set up to provide specialized and speedy delivery of justice to reduce the burden of caseloads on regular courts. However, the functioning of tribunals has been sub-optimal due to the various reasons.
Issues with the tribunals:
Lack judicial independence: appointments to tribunals by executive is non-transparent. Their funds and functionaries are regulated by executive thus undermining judicial independence.
Many tribunals often act as extended office of concerned departments manned by officials rather than judicial members.
Access to justice: as tribunal benches are located at few locations, it possess inherent difficulty for many litigants.
Infrastructure: inadequate workforce and infrastructure; lack of information available on the functioning of tribunals due to unresponsive websites.
No uniform recruitment, conditions for service, retirement age: this puts tribunals at the mercy of the parent ministries.
Congestion in higher judiciary due to litigations against the decisions of these tribunals.
Judicial overreach by tribunals: for example Armed Forces Tribunal granted non-functional upgrade to armed forces which is objected because it does not have the power to pass such an order. Directives by NGT in the domain of policy making is another example.
Over-tribunalisation: existence of numerous tribunals with varied and overlapping jurisdictions.
Sidestepping high courts: as in some cases, an appeal against the order of an appellate tribunal can directly be filed in the Supreme Court.
The above-mentioned issues could be addressed through:
The tribunals which replace the jurisdiction of the Courts should enjoy the same constitutional protections as higher courts.
Need for a new “tribunals service” to address the questions of membership and staffing of tribunals.
The location of benches of certain tribunals must be driven by empirical studies.
The extent of tribunalization that is permissible under our Constitution should adhere to SC ruling in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India.
Ensuring Administrative and institutional autonomy to tribunals
Law Commission has also provided a blueprint regarding appointment, qualification, selection and tenure of members as well as location of tribunals which should be implemented at the earliest.