[Answered] Discuss the role of tribunals in delivering justice. Also, critically examine the ‘Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities, Rules, 2020’.

Demand of the question Introduction. Contextual introduction. Body. Discuss the role of tribunals in delivering justice. Mention various provisions under the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities, Rules, 2020 and related issues. 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 under Article 323-A (administrative tribunals) and Article 323-B (Other 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.

Role of tribunals in delivering justice:

  1. Speedy Justice: The core objective of the tribunal is to deliver quick and quality justice. Since the tribunal procedure is not so complex, it is easy to decide the matters quickly and efficiently.
  2. Less Expensive: 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 have cumbrous and slow-going, thus, making the litigation costly. Therefore, the administrative tribunals are cheaper than ordinary courts.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 judiciary.
  5. 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.

Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities, Rules, 2020 and related issues:

Rule Issue
In the 2020 rules, by default, all committees consist of a judge, the president or chairman or chairperson of the tribunal concerned and two secretaries to the Government of India. Under the 2020 rules, the inclusion of the president/chairman/chairperson of the tribunal as a member in the selection committee is directly against the previous SC Judgements.In the 2017, Supreme Court in Rojer Mathew, barred the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the selection committee for all other tribunals was made up either entirely from personnel within or nominated by the Central government or comprised a majority of personnel from the Central government.
Now, a non-judicial member can become the president or chairman or chairperson as the case may be. As a non-judicial member becomes a member in the selection committee, the Supreme Court judge will be in the minority, giving primacy to the executive, which is impermissible. Further, in Madras Bar Association (2010), the Court explicitly held that only judges and advocates can be considered for appointment as judicial member of the tribunal and that persons from the Indian Legal Service cannot be considered for appointment as judicial member.
In the 2020 rules, the tenure of members has been increased from 3 years to 4 years. In Madras Bar Association (2010), the Court had held that the term of office in tribunals shall be changed to a term of 5 or 7 years. Rules have just increased to 4 years.Further, reiterating its previous decision in Madras Bar Association (2010), the Court had held that the tenure of three years for members will “preclude cultivation of adjudicatory experience and is thus injurious to the efficiency of the Tribunals”.
An advocate can no longer apply to the post of judicial member of CAT, DRAT, etc. It eliminates the chances of bright and experienced advocates applying for the post of judicial members.The exclusion of advocates was first judicially noticed in the Revenue Bar Association (2019) wherein the Madras High Court proceeded to recommend to Parliament to reconsider this proposal.

Tribunals are meant to deliver justice. The 2020 rules may hinder this role and may harm the balance between executive and judiciary. Efforts must be made to remove the contentious provisions under the rules and allow tribunals to work efficiently.

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