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Administrative Tribunals in India | Important Acts and Laws for Judiciary Exams PDF Download

History of Tribunal

Background of Tribunal Creation:

  • The concept of tribunals in India originated with the establishment of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal before independence.

Post-Independence Requirement:

  • After independence, there was a growing need for efficient and prompt resolution of administrative disputes.
  • Citizens sought comprehensive and timely justice as a fundamental right.

Necessity of Administrative Tribunals:

  • The Indian Constitution guaranteed various rights for the protection of individuals.
  • Due to the burden on the judiciary, there arose a demand for speedy trials and specialized adjudication.
  • Existing courts faced challenges in handling the volume of cases, legal technicalities, etc.

Constitutionality of the Administrative Tribunals in India

  • The establishment of administrative tribunals in India can be traced back to the 42nd Amendment of the Indian Constitution, which introduced Part XIV A and incorporated Article 323A and Article 323B.
  • These articles have the effect of excluding the jurisdiction of the High Courts as provided in Article 226 and 227 of the Indian Constitution. However, they do not impact the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 136.
  • The primary aim of setting up administrative tribunals is to alleviate the pressure and workload on both the High Courts and the lower judiciary.
  • Administrative tribunals in India possess characteristics of both judicial and administrative bodies, combining elements of both.

Article 227 of the Indian Constitution covers the following tribunals:

  • Election Tribunal
  • Revenue Tribunal
  • Rent Control Authority
  • Income Tax Tribunal
  • Railway Rates Tribunal

The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985

  • Parliament enacted the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, to address matters outlined in Article 323A.
  • This legislation mandates the establishment of a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) at the national level and a State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) in each state.
  • The tribunals possess the authority to assess the constitutionality of relevant laws and statutes.
  • The Act applies to the entire nation concerning the Central Administrative Tribunal, with the exception of Jammu and Kashmir. It is also applicable to Administrative tribunals at the state level, excluding Jammu and Kashmir.

Objective for the establishment of administrative tribunals in india

Purpose of Introduction of the Act:

  • To reduce the backlog of cases in courts and alleviate congestion.
  • To ensure quicker resolution of disputes related to service matters.

Question for Administrative Tribunals in India
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What was the primary aim of establishing administrative tribunals in India?
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Applicability of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985

The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, as outlined in Section 2, is applicable to a specific group of individuals within the Central Government. It does not extend to the following categories:

  • Members of the naval, military, or air force, or any other armed forces of the Union
  • Officers or servants of the Supreme Court or any High Courts
  • Individuals appointed to the secretarial staff of either House of the Parliament

Let's break down these exclusions further:

  • Members of the Armed Forces: The Act does not cover individuals who are part of the naval, military, air force, or any other armed forces of the Union. These personnel fall outside the scope of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.
  • Officers of the Judiciary: Officers or servants working within the framework of the Supreme Court or any High Courts are not subject to the provisions of this Act. Their roles and responsibilities are governed by separate regulations.
  • Secretarial Staff of Parliament: Individuals appointed to the secretarial staff of either House of the Parliament are also exempt from the purview of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985. Their employment conditions and dispute resolution mechanisms are distinct from those outlined in this legislation.

Composition of the Tribunals and Bench

Composition of Tribunals:

  • Tribunals are structured according to Section 4 of this Act.
  • Each Tribunal comprises a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Judicial, and Administrative members.

Bench Composition:

  • Every bench must have at least one judicial and one administrative member.

Location of Benches:

  • The Central Tribunal's benches are typically situated in New Delhi, Allahabad, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and other locations specified by the Central Government.

Member Transfers:

  • The Chairman holds the authority to transfer the Vice-Chairman or other members between benches.

Qualification and Appointment of Members

Section 6 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, outlines the qualifications and procedures for appointing members to tribunals.

Chairman

  • To qualify as a Chairman, an individual must meet one of the following criteria:
  • Being a former or current High Court judge.
  • Holding the position of Vice Chairman for at least two years.
  • Serving as the Secretary to the Government of India.
  • Occupying any other position with a salary equivalent to that of a secretary.

Example: For instance, a person who has served as a High Court judge or held the office of Vice Chairman for two years is eligible to be appointed as Chairman.

Vice-Chairman

  • Eligibility for the Vice-Chairman position includes:
  • Being a former or current High Court judge.
  • Holding the position of Secretary to the Government for two years or a similar position with the same pay scale under Central or State Governments.
  • Holding the post of Additional Secretary to the Government of India for five years or a similar position with the pay scale of Additional Secretary.

Illustration: Someone who has been a High Court judge or held the role of Secretary to the Government for two years can qualify for the position of Vice-Chairman.

Judicial Member

  • Requirements for a Judicial Member entail:
  • Being or having been a High Court judge.
  • Having served in the Indian Legal Service and held a Grade I position for a minimum of three years.

Explanation: An individual can become a Judicial Member if they have experience as a High Court judge or have held a senior position in the Indian Legal Service.

Administrative Member

  • A potential Administrative Member should have:
  • Held the position of Additional Secretary to the Government of India or a comparable role for at least two years.
  • Occupied the post of Joint Secretary to the Government of India or a similar position.
  • Demonstrated sufficient administrative expertise.

Elaboration: Individuals eligible for the role of Administrative Member must possess relevant administrative experience, such as serving as an Additional Secretary to the Government of India.

The appointment of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and other members is made by the President. Judicial Members are appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. State Tribunal officials are appointed by the President after consulting with the respective State Governor.

Term of Office

  • Members of the tribunal, including the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and other members, are appointed for a duration of 5 years as specified in Section 8 of the Act.
  • The term of office can also end if the individual reaches a certain age limit:
    • The Chairman or Vice-Chairman must retire upon reaching the age of 65 years.
    • Other members of the tribunal are required to step down when they reach the age of 62 years.

Resignation and Removal

  • Procedure for Resignation: Any member including the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, or other members can resign by submitting a written resignation to the President.
  • Grounds for Removal: Members can only be removed from their positions by a Presidential order citing proven misbehavior or incapacity. This decision follows an inquiry conducted by a Supreme Court judge.
  • Due Process: Members facing removal have the right to know the charges brought against them and are entitled to a fair hearing to present their side of the story.
  • Investigation Rules: The Central Government has the authority to establish rules that govern the investigation procedures for the charges leveled against members.

Jurisdiction of Central Tribunal

Central Tribunal, upon appointment, holds authority over various matters previously under other courts (excluding the Supreme Court) as outlined in Section 14:

  • Recruitment for Union or All India civil services, civil posts, or civilian employees of defense services.
  • Service matters concerning the aforementioned employees, as well as employees of local or other authorities in India, under the Government of India, or in government-owned corporations or societies.
  • Service matters of individuals whose services have been transferred by State or local authorities, or corporations, to the Central Government.

Procedure and Powers of Tribunals

  • A tribunal is not required to strictly adhere to the procedures outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. It possesses the authority to manage its own proceedings while ensuring the application of natural justice principles.
  • Decisions on applications and cases by a tribunal should be made promptly, with thorough examination of documents, written submissions, and consideration of oral arguments.
  • Tribunals are empowered with similar authorities as civil courts under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, particularly concerning:
    • Summoning individuals for testimony under oath
    • Requesting document production
    • Accepting evidence through affidavits
    • Requesting public records or documents under Sections 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
    • Issuing commissions for witness and document examination
    • Revisiting and reconsidering their rulings

Characteristics of the Administrative Tribunals in India

Administrative tribunals in India have specific attributes that distinguish them from regular courts:

  • Statutory origin is a fundamental requirement for administrative tribunals, meaning they must be established by a statute.
  • While sharing some similarities with ordinary courts, administrative tribunals do not encompass all their features.
  • These tribunals undertake quasi-judicial and judicial functions and are mandated to act judiciously in all situations.
  • Unlike ordinary courts, administrative tribunals are not strictly bound by rules of evidence and procedure.
  • They operate independently and are not subject to administrative interference when executing judicial or quasi-judicial tasks.
  • Regarding procedural aspects, administrative tribunals wield court-like powers to summon witnesses, administer oaths, and compel document production.
  • Adherence to the principles of natural justice is obligatory for these tribunals.
  • Fairness, openness, and impartiality are pivotal requirements for the functioning of administrative tribunals.
  • Decisions made by administrative tribunals can be challenged using prerogative writs like certiorari and prohibition.

Advantages of Administrative Tribunals

  • Flexibility: Administrative tribunals have brought flexibility and versatility to the Indian judicial system. In contrast to the rigid and inflexible procedures of ordinary courts, administrative tribunals follow a more informal and adaptable approach.
  • Speedy Justice: The primary aim of administrative tribunals is to provide prompt and quality justice. Their less complex procedures enable quick and efficient resolution of matters.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Administrative Tribunals are more cost-effective compared to ordinary courts due to their quicker case resolution times. This results in reduced expenses for litigants. In contrast, ordinary courts are often slow-moving and expensive in terms of litigation costs.
  • Quality Justice: Presently, administrative tribunals stand out as an effective method for delivering timely and quality justice. They ensure adequate resolution of cases in a shorter duration.
  • Relief to Courts: The system of administrative adjudication has alleviated the burden of cases on ordinary courts, contributing to more efficient judicial processes.

Disadvantages of Administrative Tribunals

  • Against the Rule of Law: Administrative tribunals, while important in modern society, can undermine the principle of the rule of law. The rule of law aims to ensure equality before the law and the supremacy of regular laws over government arbitrariness. By establishing separate laws and procedures, administrative tribunals may limit the scope of the rule of law.
  • Lack of Specified Procedure: Unlike traditional courts, administrative adjudicatory bodies lack strict rules and procedures. This absence of a defined framework raises concerns about the potential violation of natural justice principles.
  • No Prediction of Future Decisions: Due to the absence of precedent-following in administrative tribunals, it becomes challenging to anticipate the outcomes of future decisions. This unpredictability can lead to confusion and inconsistency in rulings.
  • Scope of Arbitrariness: While civil and criminal courts adhere to established procedural codes, administrative tribunals have the flexibility to create their own procedures. This autonomy can result in arbitrary decisions and actions within these tribunals.
  • Absence of Legal Expertise: Members of administrative tribunals may not necessarily possess a legal background. While they may excel in various fields, they might lack the specialized legal expertise essential for resolving disputes effectively. This gap in legal knowledge could impact the quality of decisions made by these tribunals.

Question for Administrative Tribunals in India
Try yourself:
What is the eligibility criteria for a person to be appointed as the Chairman of an Administrative Tribunal?
View Solution

Case Laws

S.P Sampath Kumar VS Union Of India

Facts:

  • The constitutionality of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, was primarily challenged due to its exclusion of the jurisdiction of High Courts under Articles 226 and 227 in service matters. This exclusion was argued to undermine the concept of judicial review, a crucial aspect of the Indian Constitution.

Judgment:

  • A five-Judge Bench of the Court upheld the Act's validity, except for Section 6(1)(c). It clarified that while the Act limits the High Courts' judicial review in service matters, it doesn't eliminate judicial review entirely. The Supreme Court's jurisdiction under Article 32 and 136 remains unaffected.
  • The Court emphasized the importance of retaining avenues for judicial review, a fundamental aspect of the Indian Constitution. It deemed Section 6 (1)(c) unconstitutional as it granted excessive power to the Government in tribunal appointments, recommending consultations with the Chief Justice of India for such appointments.
  • The Court also suggested extending the prescribed 5-year term for tribunal members to attract qualified individuals. These recommendations were implemented through the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Act, 1987.

Union Of India VS Gandhi President, Madras Bar Association

Facts:

  • The constitutionality of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) was questioned on various grounds, including the transfer of company jurisdiction from High Courts to these tribunals and concerns regarding the rule of law and separation of powers.

Judgment:

  • The Court upheld the constitutionality of NCLT and NCLAT, subject to necessary amendments in the Companies Act, 1956. It recognized Parliament's authority to establish tribunals for dispute resolution, emphasizing that such actions do not inherently violate the rule of law or separation of powers.
  • The Court stressed the need for tribunals to uphold principles of separation of powers, rule of law, and judicial independence. It highlighted the importance of subjecting tribunals like NCLT and NCLAT to judicial review to ensure the preservation of these principles.

Conclusion

  • Administrative tribunals in India play a crucial role by offering swift and efficient adjudication services to the public. They help alleviate the burden on regular courts and establish an alternative framework with equivalent power and responsibility.
  • These tribunals contribute significantly to the legal system by specializing in specific areas such as taxation, service matters, and intellectual property rights, ensuring expertise and focused resolution of disputes.
  • One key advantage of administrative tribunals is their ability to provide specialized and expert decision-making in complex regulatory matters. This ensures a higher level of understanding and competence in handling intricate legal issues.
  • By streamlining the adjudication process, administrative tribunals promote efficiency and reduce delays in resolving disputes, thereby enhancing access to justice for individuals and organizations seeking legal remedies.

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