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Tribunal Reforms Act 2021 passed by Parliament – Why Supreme Court is upset with GoI? RPSC Judicial

Tribunal Reforms Act 2021 passed by Parliament – Why Supreme Court is upset with GoI? RPSC Judicial

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Other Constitutional Dimensions || Tribunals

Why in news?

The Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021, was just passed by the LokSabha, with the goal of dissolving at least eight courts.

Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021:

Bill’s Major Provisions:

  • Existing Bodies’ Dissolution:Existing Organizations are to be dissolved, and their powers to be transferred to other judicial bodies. The Supreme Court, for example, will adjudicate issues heard by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal.
  • Existing Bodies Consolidation:The Finance Act of 2017 includes court-based courts in the consolidation of existing bodies. For example, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal and the Competition Appellate Tribunal are both connected.
  • Candidate Selection Committees: The central government shall elect the Chairperson and Members of the Courts based on the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Selection Committee. The members of the Committee will be:
    • As Chairperson, the Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court Judge chosen by him (by casting vote).
    • Central governments have nominated two secretaries.
    • The current Chairperson, or a former High Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of the High Court, as well as the Secretary of the Department in which the Tribunal is housed (excluding the right to vote).
  • State Administrative Courts: Separate search election committees will be established, as well as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the nation in question, such as the Chairperson (by a casting vote).
  • Eligibility and Tenure of Office: The bill specifies a four-year term (subject to a maximum of 70 years for the Chairperson, and a maximum of 67 years for members).
  • Councillors can be removed:On the advice of the Select Committee of Investigators, the central government removes the Chairperson or Member.

The Tribunal Reforms Bill’s Importance:

  • Suing the tribunals: Advocate bar associations have been suing the tribunals since 1985 over major issues about its independence from the administration.
  • To enhance Quality of adjudication:In most cases, the quality of adjudication has been disappointing, there have been significant delays as a result of the government’s struggle to find qualified people willing to serve on these tribunals, and litigation has actually become more expensive as a result of the addition of these tribunals.
  • In 2015, the Indian government launched a process of tribunal rationalization.
  • Seven tribunals were disbanded or consolidated as a result of the Finance Act of 2017, bringing the overall number of tribunals down to 19 from 26.

What was the Court’s judgment, and what are the Bill’s major issues?

  • In Madras Bar Association v. Union of India, the Supreme Court established a 50-year minimum threshold for office and membership, as well as a four-year term limit.
  • Such requirements, it claimed, contradict the separation of powers, freedom of the press, the rule of law, and Article 14 of India’s Constitution.

Problems connected with it include:

  • In terms of the following clauses, the Bill aimed to overturn the High Court’s decision:
    • The 50-year minimum threshold is still included in the bill.
    • The Chairperson and members of the court have a four-year term of office.
    • The Search-cum-Selection Committee is the two-word suggestion for each job, and it needs a better government decision within three months.

Issues Raised by Supreme Court:

  • Repeated SC Orders Violations: The Center ignores the Court’s repeated directives to ensure that the courts work properly.The High Court has rejected the Act’s provisions concerning service conditions and the nomination of Councilors and the Chairperson.
  • Unconstitutional Violations: The law was not debated, and the government re-enacted the identical principles that the Court rejected in the Madras Bar Association case (2021). This is comparable to the Supreme Court’s judgment’s “unconstitutional revocation of the legislation.”
  • It is incompatible with the separation of powers: This law authorizes the Central Government to act on the Electoral Committee’s recommendations, ideally within three months of the date of the report. The bill’s section 3 (7) enables the search-cum selection committee in the Central Government to suggest a two-word panel, infringing on the separation of powers and legal independence principles.
  • Security of Tenure: The Tribunals Reforms Act of 2021 prevents those under the age of 50 from being appointed to the courts. It jeopardizes the duration and security of employment.
  • Court vacancies: India presently has 16 courts, including the National Green Tribunal, the Armed Forces Appellate Tribunal, and the Debt Recovery Tribunal, all of which are handicapped. The courts have been weakened as a result of a significant number of vacancies for Members and Chairpersons, as well as undue delays in replacing them.
  • Damage to the Decision-Making Process: As quickly as feasible, these matters will be submitted to higher courts or commercial courts.
  • Lack of competence: In regular courts, a lack of competence can cause delays in the decision-making process.
    • The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), for example, only heard rulings that opposed the review board’s decisions, requiring competence in the arts and theaters.
    • Furthermore, the dissolution of some courts and bodies of appeals, as well as the transfer of their responsibilities to the Supreme Court, might be criticized because the Indian courts are already overburdened with litigation.

AboutTribunals

  • It is a quasi-judicial institution that is set up to deal with problems such as resolving administrative or tax-related disputes.
  • 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.
  • The term ‘Tribunal’ is derived from the word ‘Tribunes’, which means ‘Magistrates of the Classical Roman Republic’.
  • Tribunal is referred to as the office of the ‘Tribunes’ i.e., a Roman official under the monarchy and the republic with the function of protecting the citizen from arbitrary action by the aristocrat magistrates.
  • A Tribunal, generally, is any person or institution having an authority to judge, adjudicate on, or to determine claims or disputes – whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Tribunals were not originally a part of the Constitution.
  • The 42nd Amendment Act 1976 introduced provision for tribunals in accordance with the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee.
  • The Amendment introduced Part XIV-A to the Constitution, which deals with ‘Tribunals’ and contains two articles:
  • Article 323A:It deals with Administrative Tribunals. These are quasi-judicial institutions that resolve disputes related to the recruitment and service conditions of persons engaged in public service.
    • Article 323B:It deals with tribunals for other subjects such as Taxation, Industrial and labour, Foreign exchange, import and export, Land reforms, Food, Ceiling on urban property, Elections to Parliament and state legislatures, Rent and tenancy rights.
      • While 323A is concerned with administrative tribunals, 323B is concerned with other sorts of tribunals (such as the National Green Tribunal, the Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT), and the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), among others).
      • Only Parliament has the authority to create tribunals under 323A. Tribunals formed under 323B, on the other hand, can be constituted by both the Parliament and the State Legislature.
      • There can be just one central tribunal and one for each state (or two or more states) under 323A, however there can be a hierarchy of tribunals under 323B.

About Administrative tribunal:

  • They are of statutory origin, which means they must be enacted by Parliament/Legislatures by a legislation.
  • They are quasi-judicial in nature, meaning they possess some but not all of the characteristics of a court.
  • They are not constrained by the Civil Procedure Code and operate on the principles of natural justice.
  • They, like other courts, have the authority to summon witnesses, administer oaths, and force the production of documents, among other things.
  • Against the rulings of such tribunals, writs of prohibition and certiorari are possible.
  • They are self-governing bodies that are not influenced by the government.
  • Advantages of Administrative Tribunals:
    • When opposed to conventional courts, which must follow rigid processes, tribunals provide more freedom.
    • They are less expensive and provide swift justice.
    • The tribunals’ method is straightforward and simple enough for a layperson to grasp.
    • They also provide respite to conventional courts, which are already swamped with lawsuits.
  • Disadvantages of Administrative Tribunals:
    • They are in violation of the spirit of the “Rule of Law.”
      • The rule of law ensures that organizations and people do not wield arbitrary authority.
      • It is the idea that everyone is subject to the law and is responsible to it (which is fair).
    • For civil and criminal matters, ordinary courts have a consistent code of procedure. Administrative tribunals, on the other hand, do not have a consistent code of procedure.
    • Subject area specialists with no prior expertise in dealing with court procedures are occasionally in charge of such tribunals. As a result, they employ summary methods as well.
  • Challenges associated with Administrative Tribunals:
    • In the selection and funding of tribunals, there is a lack of autonomy.
    • The Supreme Court decided in the Chandra Kumar case (1997) that appeals against tribunal rulings might be filed in the High Court. This violates the goal of lessening the strain on traditional courts.
    • There is currently a dearth of infrastructure that allows the tribunals to function effectively.
    • The government usually appoints retired judges to serve as chairpersons of tribunals. As a result, existing judges may demonstrate favoritism toward particular issues in order to be selected once they retire.
    • Tribunal autonomy should be preserved, and structural and functional reforms are required to free them from executive interference.
    • Tribunals should be subject to some sort of judicial oversight to ensure that the Rule of Law is upheld.

Other types of Tribunal:

  • Armed Forces Tribunal
  • National Green Tribunal
  • Water Disputes Tribunal
  • Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT).

Mains oriented question:

One of the goals of the tribunals was to reduce the workload of the judiciary and speed up justice. Is this a goal that tribunals have achieved? Examine the situation critically. (200 words)