Tribunals

News: The Supreme Court has warned that even after the judicial intervention, the government made abrupt efforts to fill vacancies in tribunals some time back and nothing after that.

Background:

  • The apex court said that it is getting requests for extension of time for NCLT (Nation Company Law Tribunal) matters, etc. Some knee-jerk appointments took place and nothing after that. The govt earlier had introduced Tribunal Reforms Bill in 2021, which abolishes nine appellate tribunals and revives provisions of an ordinance struck down by the Supreme Court.

What are Tribunals?

  • Tribunals are specialist judicial bodies that decide disputes in a particular area of law. They are institutions established for discharging judicial or quasi-judicial duties. The objective may be to reduce the caseload of the judiciary or to bring in subject expertise for technical matters.
  • In 1976, Articles 323A and 323B were inserted in the Constitution of India through the 42nd Amendment.
  • Article 323A: This empowered Parliament to constitute administrative Tribunals (both at central and state level) for adjudication of matters related to recruitment and conditions of service of public servants.
  • Article 323B: This specified certain subjects (such as taxation and land reforms) for which Parliament or state legislatures may constitute tribunals by enacting a law.
  • In 2010, the Supreme Court clarified that the subject matters under Article 323B are not exclusive, and legislatures are empowered to create tribunals on any subject matters under their purview as specified in the Seventh Schedule.

SC’s stance on Tribunals

  • The Supreme Court has ruled that tribunals, being quasi-judicial bodies, should have the same level of independence from the executive as the judiciary. Key factors include the mode of selection of members, the composition of tribunals, and the terms and tenure of service.
  • In order to ensure that tribunals are independent of the executive, the Supreme Court had recommended that all administrative matters be managed by the law ministry rather than the ministry associated with the subject area. Later, the Court recommended the creation of an independent National Tribunals Commission for the administration of tribunals. These recommendations have not been implemented.

Issues:

  • Whereas the reasoning for setting up some tribunals was to reduce the pendency of cases in courts, several tribunals are facing the issue of a large caseload and pendency.
  • With over 240 vacancies in key tribunals where thousands of cases were pending, not a single appointment had been made by the government in any of these tribunals till date.