The term ‘tribunal’ is used in Administrative Law with a specific meaning, referring only to adjudicatory bodies that are not part of the regular court system. Technically, the judicial powers in India are vested in the Courts, which are responsible for safeguarding individual rights and promoting justice. As a result, in order to create a more efficient court system with fewer complications, judicial powers are assigned to administrative authorities, giving rise to administrative tribunals or administrative adjudicatory bodies with quasi-judicial functions.
It’s the term used to describe the “administrative exercise of judicial functions.” It is a term that is used interchangeably with administrative parts and decision-making. It is the term used to describe a variety of methods for resolving a dispute outside of the traditional judicial system. It is constitutional, despite the fact that it violates the separation of powers principle. It refers to the engagement or involvement of the government’s executive branch (administrative authorities) in judicial responsibilities. Administrative authorities can issue authoritative and appealable conclusions through the use of administrative adjudication. This adjudicative function can be lost in a number of ways. Tribunals, on the other hand, are the most common form of adjudication.
The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal was established in India before the country’s independence, establishing the notion of tribalization. Following independence, there was a demand for more flexibility and quickness in settling administrative problems. The main goal of tribalization was to provide individuals with specialized and timely justice. Following the drafting of the Indian Constitution, the Constitution provided a number of rights for the well-being of persons. People have a right to quick and high-quality trials, which the current court system cannot provide due to a backlog of cases and appeals, procedural inconsistencies, and other factors.
Administrative Tribunals must be formed by legislation or by Parliament or State Legislation since they are of statutory origin. They have a quasi-judicial character to them. This means they have some but not all of the characteristics of a court. The Administrative Tribunal is required to act judicially and in accordance with Natural Justice principles. We observe a variety of procedural issues, such as administrative tribunals’ abilities to summon witnesses, administer oaths, and force the production of documents.
It is not constrained by the civil procedure code’s procedural norms or the rigorous rules of evidence law. They are self-contained and free from administrative intervention in the performance of their judicial and quasi-judicial powers. The writs of certiorari and prohibition can be used to overturn administrative tribunal decisions. It is required to behave honestly, fairly, and impartially and has some court toppings.
Growth of Administrative Tribunal in India
Part XIV-A of the Constitution, which includes Articles 323A and 323B, provided for the establishment of tribunals to deal with administrative concerns and other issues. Tribunals must be constituted and established in accordance with these provisions of the Constitution so that they do not jeopardise the integrity of the judicial system established in the Constitution, which is the foundation of the Constitution. Articles 323A and 323B were enacted with the primary goal of excluding the High Courts’ jurisdiction under Articles 226 and 227, except for the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction under Article 136, and of establishing an effective alternative institutional mechanism or authority for specific judicial cases.
The purpose of setting up tribunals to the exclusion of the High Courts’ jurisdiction was to reduce case pending times and burdens. As a result, tribunals are set up as part of the civil and criminal court systems, with the Supreme Court of India as the supreme court. An administrative tribunal, from a functional standpoint, is neither a solely judicial nor an entirely administrative entity, but rather a hybrid of the two. Because of this, an administrative tribunal is also referred to as a “quasi-judicial” entity.
Categories of Administrative Tribunals
Under Indian Constitution
Administrative Tribunals for service matter [Article 323A]
Article 323A establishes administrative tribunals by law enacted by Parliament for the adjudication of disputes and complaints relating to the recruitment and conditions of employment of Government servants in the Central and State Governments. Employees of any local or other authority inside India’s territory or under the administration of the Indian government, or of a corporation owned or managed by the government, are included.
Such tribunals must be established at the federal and state levels individually for each state, or for two or more states. The statute must include provisions regarding tribunals’ jurisdiction, power, and authority, as well as the procedure to be followed by tribunals and the exclusion of all other courts except the Supreme Court of India from their jurisdiction.
Tribunals for other matters [Article 323B]
Article 323B allows the Parliament and state legislatures to create tribunals for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint involving the topics listed in clause (2) of Article 323B. A levy, assessment, collection, and enforcement of any tax; foreign exchange and export; industrial and labour conflicts; production, procurement, supply, and distribution of foodstuffs; rent and its regulation and control; tenancy concerns, and so on are some of the topics covered by clause (2). Legislation defining the jurisdiction and powers of such tribunals, as well as the procedure to be followed, is required.
In the landmark case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, the court reached a number of different conclusions about the tribunal’s jurisdictional powers under Articles 323A and 323B. The Supreme Court ruled that clauses 2(d) of Article 323A and 3(d) of Article 323B were unconstitutional because they denied the High Courts and the Supreme Court jurisdiction under Articles 226/227 and 32, respectively. The Supreme Court concluded that the tribunals established under Articles 323A and 323B would continue to be the first-instance courts in the areas for which they were established. Litigants are not permitted to seek the High Courts without first exhausting the jurisdiction of the relevant tribunal.
The aggrieved party would not be able to directly appeal the tribunal’s decision to the Supreme Court under Article 136; instead, the aggrieved party would be able to go to the High Court under Articles 226 and 227, and then to the Apex Court under Article 136 after the decision of the Division Bench of the High Court.
Under the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985
Parliament established the Administrative Tribunal Act of 1985 in response to the provisions of Article 323A, which covers all situations falling within clause (1) of Article 323-A. Every state must have a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) at the federal level and a State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) at the state level, according to this Act. The tribunal has the authority to rule on the constitutionality of the laws and statutes in question. In so far as the Central Administrative Tribunal is concerned, the Act applies to the entire country, and in so far as state administrative tribunals are concerned, it also applies to the entire country. The major goal of enacting this act was to ease court congestion or to reduce the number of cases in courts and to allow for a more expedient resolution of service-related disputes.
The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, applies to all Central Government employees except members of the Union’s naval, military, or air forces, any officer or servant of the Supreme Court or any High Courts, and any person appointed to the secretariat staff of either House of Parliament, according to Section 2. The makeup of the tribunals and bench is described in Section 4 of the Act. A Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Judicial, and administrative members shall make up each tribunal. At least one judge and one administrative member must be present on every bench. The Central Tribunal’s benches are normally located in New Delhi, Allahabad, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and other locations as determined by the Central Government. The Vice Chairman or other members of the committee may be moved from one bench to another by the Chairman.
Types of the tribunals as per the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985
Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)
It has jurisdiction over employees of the Central Government, any Union Territory, Local Government, or any other Central Government entity owned or managed by the Central Government in terms of service problems.
State Administrative Tribunals (SAT)
The Central Government and Parliament have the authority to establish these tribunals. Similarly, under Article 323 B, the State Legislature is responsible for levying, assessing, collecting, and enforcing any tax related to the land reforms mentioned under Article 31 A.
Joint Administrative Tribunals (JAT)
This can be constituted at the request of a group of two or more states that have administrative control over two or more states. There are a variety of tribunals, for example:
- Armed Force Tribunal (AFT)
- Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)
- National Green Tribunal (NGT)
- Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)
- Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT)
- Water Dispute Tribunal
Cases related to Administrative Tribunals in India
S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India
The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, was primarily challenged in this case on the grounds that it eliminated the idea of judicial review, which was a vital aspect of the Indian Constitution, by excluding the jurisdiction of High Courts under Articles 226 and 227 in relation to service affairs.
Except for Section 6(1), the Act was affirmed by a five-judge bench of the Court (c). The court ruled that, while the Act limited the High Courts’ ability to conduct a judicial review in service matters, it did not completely eliminate the idea of judicial review. The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction under Articles 32 and 136 is not affected by this Act and remains intact. As a result, there is still a judicial review authority that can hear cases of unfairness. Only if an alternative effective institutional mechanism or authority is offered, judicial review, which is part of the core framework of the Indian Constitution, can be taken away from a specific sector.
Section 6 (1)(c) of the Act, on the other hand, was found to be unconstitutional since it provided the government unrestricted jurisdiction to appoint the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and other members of the tribunals. Only after consulting the Chief Justice of India can the government make these appointments in a meaningful and efficient manner. The court recommended that the 5-year term provided by the Act for the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and other members of the tribunal is not reasonable since it would discourage good and charitable persons from accepting the job and that it should be reasonably extended. The Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Act of 1987 put the Supreme Court’s instructions into effect.
Union of India v. R. Gandhi, President, Madras Bar Association
Here, the question of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT)’s constitutional validity was raised for the following reasons:
- Parliament lacks the jurisdiction to delegate judicial functions that have long been conducted by the High Courts to any other tribunal.
- The doctrines of Rule of Law, Separation of Powers, and Judiciary Independence are all violated by transferring the full corporation jurisdiction of the High Court to the tribunal.
- Parts 1B and 1C of the Companies Act are flawed and illegal because they violate constitutional principles of rule of law, separation of powers, and judicial independence.
The legitimacy of NCLT and NCLAT in exercising the powers and jurisdiction of the High Court was affirmed by the court, subject to required adjustments to the Companies Act, 1956, as modified in 2002. The court accepted and maintained Parliament’s constitutional competence to create tribunals for dispute resolution. Articles 245, 246 and 247 of the Constitution, along with other entries in the Union List and the Concurrent List, establish Parliament’s legislative authority to create courts and tribunals, which is unaffected or controlled by Articles 323A and 323B of the Constitution.
The court went on to say that establishing tribunals and transferring judicial powers does not infringe on the rule of law, separation of powers, or the judiciary’s independence because the Constitution allows both courts and tribunals to exercise judicial powers. What counts most is whether the tribunals in place respect and uphold the concepts of separation of powers, rule of law, and judicial independence. The constitutions of the NCLT and NCLAT must be subject to judicial review so that the court can investigate the situation to see if these principles are being jeopardized by such tribalization and intervene to protect them.
Advantages of Administrative Tribunals
- Flexibility: The introduction of administrative tribunals gave India’s judicial system more flexibility and versatility. Unlike the strict and inflexible procedures of a regular court, administrative tribunals follow a more relaxed and casual method.
- Speedy Justice: The administrative tribunal’s main goal is to provide prompt and high-quality justice. Because the technique is not overly complicated, it is simple to make decisions quickly and efficiently.
- Less Expensive: In comparison to ordinary courts, Administrative Tribunals take less time to resolve matters. As a result, the costs are lower. Ordinary courts, on the other hand, are cumbersome and slow-moving, making litigation expensive. As a result, administrative tribunals are less expensive than regular courts.
- Quality Justice: In the current situation, administrative tribunals are the most efficient and effective means of delivering adequate and high-quality justice quickly.
- Relief to the Courts: The administrative adjudication system has lessened the burden of cases on conventional courts.
Disadvantages of Administrative Tribunals
They may be in violation of the Rule of Law’s spirit. The Rule of Law assures that arbitrary power does not exist. It is not a power that institutions or individuals wield. It is based on the idea that everyone is subject to and accountable to laws that benefit them. Ordinary courts do not have a uniform code of procedure, and they do not have one either. The majority of judges do not have the same level of independence as the judges and court officers. Individuals with little expertise or training in judicial proceedings, such as administrators and technical heads, are in charge of administrative tribunals.
The administrative tribunals’ functions are not autonomous in the sense that they are funded and appointed by the executive branch. The administrative tribunals do not have the necessary infrastructure to operate effectively. The tribunals’ staffing requirements are currently undetermined. The Supreme Court ruled in the Chandra Kumar case that the tribunal’s appeal falls inside the court’s jurisdiction. This violates the very goal of minimizing the judiciary’s workload. The tribunals are presided over by retired judges whom the government has nominated. As a result, the current judge may exhibit favouritism toward particular subjects in order to be chosen as a member of the tribunal after his retirement.
A well-functioning justice system is a precondition for effective government in a country committed to the rule of law. Only an independent and fair judge, in which the litigants have faith and confidence, can deliver the goods. Any institutional process or power that opposes judicial scrutiny is damaging to the fundamental structure. In order to inspire confidence and faith in the litigating public, they must have the assurance that the people judging the disputes are fully free of executive pressure. In order to ensure independence and impartiality, tribunal members must have a judicial and objective perspective, as well as sufficient knowledge and legal expertise.