Tribunals: Establishment, Evolution, Characteristics, Categories

There are a large number of laws, which charge the Executive with adjudicatory functions, and the authorities so charged are, in the strict scene, administrative tribunals.

Administrative tribunals are agencies created by specific enactments. Administrative adjudication is a term synonymously used with administrative decision-making.

The decision-making or adjudicatory function is exercised in a variety of ways. However, the most popular mode of adjudication is through tribunals.

Main characteristics of Administrative Tribunals



  1. Administrative Tribunal is a creation of a statute.
  2. An Administrative Tribunal is vested in the judicial power of the State and thereby performs quasi-judicial functions as distinguished from pure administrative functions.
  3. Administrative Tribunal is bound to act judicially and follow the principles of natural justice.
  4. It is required to act openly, fairly and impartially.
  5. An administrative Tribunal is not bound by the strict rules of procedure and evidence prescribed by the civil procedure court.

Criticisms of Tribunals

  1. The tribunal consists of members and heads that may not possess any background of law.
  2. Tribunals do not rely on uniform precedence and hence may lead to arbitrary and inconsistent decisions.

Evolution of Tribunals

The growth of Administrative Tribunals, both in developed and developing countries, has been a significant phenomenon of the twentieth century. In India also, innumerable Tribunals have been set up from time to time, both at the center and the states, covering various areas of activities like trade, industry, banking, taxation etc.

The question of establishment of Administrative Tribunals to provide speedy and inexpensive relief to the government employees, relating to grievances on recruitment and other conditions of service, had been under the consideration of Government of India for a long time.

Due to their heavy preoccupation, long pending and backlog of cases, costs involved and time factors, Judicial Courts could not offer the much-needed remedy to government servants, in their disputes with the government. A need arose to set up an institution, which would help in dispensing prompt relief to harassed employees, who perceive a sense of injustice and lack of fair play in dealing with their service grievances. 

This would motivate the employees better and raise their morale, which in turn would increase their productivity.

The First ARC and a Committee under J.C. Shah recommended the establishment of an independent tribunal to exclusively deal with service matters. The same was validated by the Supreme Court in 1980.

The Constitution (through 42ndAmendment Act, Article 323-A) empowered the Parliament to provide for adjudication or trial by Administrative Tribunals of disputes and complaints with respect to recruitment and constitution of service of persons appointed to public service and posts in connection with the affairs of the union or of any state or local or other authority within the territory of India or under the control of the government or any corporation, owned or controlled by the government.

In pursuance of the provisions of Article 323-A of the Constitution, the Administrative Tribunals Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on 29th January 1985 and received the assent of the President of India on 27th February 1985.

Judicial Review of Cases handled by Tribunals

In S. P. Sampath Kumar case, the Supreme Court directed the carrying out of certain measures with a view to ensuring the functioning of the Administrative Tribunals along constitutionally sound principles. In an amendment the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under article 32 was restored.

Constitutional validity of the Act was finally upheld in S. P. Sampath Kumar case subject to certain amendments relating to the form and content of the Administrative Tribunals. The suggested amendments were carried out by another amending Act. Thus the Administrative Tribunals became an effective and real substitute for the High Courts.

However, in 1997, a seven-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in L. Chandra Kumar held that clause 2 (d) of article 323A and clause 3(d) of article 323B, to the extent they empower Parliament to exclude the jurisdiction of the High Courts and the Supreme Court under articles 226/227 and 32 of the Constitution, are unconstitutional.

The Court held that the jurisdiction conferred upon the High Courts under articles 226/227 and upon the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution is part of the inviolable basic structure of our Constitution.

All decisions of the Administrative Tribunals are subject to scrutiny before a Division Bench of the High Court within whose jurisdiction the concerned Tribunal falls. As a result, orders of the Administrative Tribunals are being routinely appealed against in High Courts, whereas this was not the position prior to the L. Chandra Kumar’s case.

On 18th March 2006, the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2006 was introduced in Rajya Sabha to amend the Act by incorporating therein, inter alia, provisions empowering the Central Government to abolish Administrative Tribunals, and for appeal to High Court to bring the Act in line with L. Chandra Kumar.

The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in its 17th Report said that the appeal to High Court is unnecessary, and if a statutory appeal is to be provided it should lie to the Supreme Court only. The Law Commission also took up the topic suo-moto and agreed with the opinion put forward by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Categories of Tribunals in India

There are four categories of tribunals in India:

  1. Administrative bodies exercising quasi-judicial functions, whether as part and parcel of the Department or otherwise.
  2. Administrative adjudicatory bodies, which are outside the control of the Department involved in the dispute and hence decide disputes like a judge free from judicial bias . Example: The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal is under the Ministry of Law and not under Ministry of Finance.
  3. Tribunals under Article 136 in which the authority exercises inherent judicial powers of the State. Because the functions of the body are considered important over the control, composition and procedure, even Departmental bodies can be classified as Tribunals.
  4. Tribunals constituted under Article 323A and 323B having a constitutional origin and enjoying the powers and status of a High Court.

By B2B

Revisiting the Basics

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