|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Discuss various constitutional provisions related to tribunals in India. Discuss the role and issues related to tribunals in the Indian judicial system.
Conclusion. Way forward.
Tribunal is an administrative body established for the purpose of discharging quasi-judicial duties. The original Indian Constitution did not contain provisions with respect to tribunals. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added Tribunals. It performs a number of functions like adjudicating disputes, determining rights between contesting parties, making an administrative decision, reviewing an existing administrative decision and so forth.
Various constitutional provisions related to tribunals in India: Provisions for tribunals is provided through 42nd amendment by creating Part 14-A in the Constitution. It has two articles:
- Article 323 A: Article 323-A empowers Parliament to create Administrative Tribunals to adjudicate disputes regarding recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services at Union, State and local level or with any other authority within India.
- Article 323 B: Article 323-B empowers parliament or state legislatures to set up tribunals for other matters i.e. taxation, foreign exchange, import and export, Industrial and labour, Land reforms, Ceiling on urban property, Elections to Parliament and state legislatures, Rent and tenancy right.
- General features: While Article 323 A anticipates establishment of tribunals for public service matters only, Article 323 B contemplates establishment of tribunals for certain other matters.
- Under Article 323 A can be established only by Parliament, tribunals under Article 323 B can be established both by Parliament and state legislatures with respect to matters falling within their legislative competence.
- Under Article 323 A, only one tribunal for the Centre and one for each state or two or more states may be established.
Role of tribunals in the Indian judicial system:
- Quick resolution: Tribunals were set up to reduce the workload of courts, to expedite decisions, increase the outreach of justice and to provide a forum which would consist of both lawyers and experts in the areas falling under the jurisdiction of the tribunal. Since the tribunal procedure is not so complex, it is easy to decide the matters quickly and efficiently.
- Accessibility: The tribunals take less time to solve the cases as compared to the ordinary courts. As a result, the expenses are reduced. On the other hand, the ordinary courts are cumbersome and slow-going, thus making litigation Therefore, the administrative tribunals are cheaper than ordinary courts.
- Quality Justice: If we consider the present scenario, the tribunals are the best and the most effective method of providing adequate and quality justice in less time. Tribunals have expert members to deal with specific subject matters e.g. NCLT has experts in tax, NGT has environmental experts etc.
- Reduced burden of Courts: The system of administrative adjudication has lowered down the burden of the cases on the ordinary courts. A law commission report says that the top five central tribunals in India have taken over 3.50 lakh cases pending from the judiciary.
- Flexibility: The introduction of tribunals engendered flexibility and versatility in the judicial system of India. Unlike the procedures of the ordinary court which are stringent and inflexible, the administrative tribunals have a quite informal and easy-going procedure.
Issues related to tribunals in the Indian judicial system:
- Haphazard growth: They have grown haphazardly with lack of any overarching plan. Different tribunals constituted under different enactments are administered by different administrative departments of Central and the State Governments.
- More delay: Tribunals have been criticised for poor judgments resulting in the case reaching SC and HCs, leading to more delay.
- Impartiality: There are doubts about impartiality as tribunals act as extended arm of departments with retired bureaucrats appointed to it with fewer judges.
- Against separation of powers: With growth in the number of tribunals has led to transfer of judicial powers to the executive which is against separation of power and judicial independence.
- Lack of clear understanding: As tribunals do not follow any uniform procedures but principles of natural justice, adjudicators are unable to have a clear understanding of the procedures to be followed.
SC has cautioned on incessant creation of tribunals. It has itself struck down the creation of a few like the National Tax Tribunal. Hence, the need is to improve the quality of tribunal justice along with balancing the powers of judiciary and executive.