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ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS OF INDIA

A Study in the light of decided cases


Abhishek Kumar Jha
National University of Study and Research in Law, Ranchi

INTRODUCTION
Welfare nature of government is the evolutionary goal of probably every kind of government
these days in this contemporary world. There has been a phenomenal increase in the
functions of the government, which has lent enormous powers to the executive and also led to
increase in the legislative output. This has led to more litigation, restrictions on the
freedom of the individuals and constant frictions between them and the authority. The
development of welfarism led to an increase in governmental functions and the executive
saw in this a need to perform a number of quasi- legislative and quasi- judicial functions,
thus blurring the traditional positions of the various wings of the government under the
doctrine of separation of powers, under which the powers of the government were divided
between the legislature, executive and the judiciary which were to be entrusted with the
power of making law, executing it and interpreting the law respectively.
But now these welfare states changed radically and involve itself in the hosting of wide
socio-economic activities; for example: providing health services, education , industrial
regulation and other allied welfare measures. Now where there is these kind of activities;
disputes are certain and obvious. The issues which arose from disputes on such matters raised
not only legal matters but also matters which affect the society at large. The constitution and
function of our court system is very traditional as well as inefficient. The inherent procedural
limitations made it difficult for the courts to dispose these cases promptly thus leading to a
huge backlog of cases in all levels of the judiciary. Courts therefore became deluged with
litigations arising directly and incidentally from such increased governmental interventions. It
was also felt in many quarters that the members of the judiciary were neither adequately
trained nor equipped to deal with the complex socio-economic and technical matters at hand.
Thus it was felt specialised adjudicatory bodies such as tribunals needed to be created to
resolve such disputes fairly and effectively.

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1989780

Tribunals are a Judgment seat; a court of justice; board or committee appointed to adjudicate
on claims of a particular kind1. The essence of the meaning of the word tribunal which can
be culled out from the various Supreme Court authorities is that they are adjudicatory bodies
(except ordinary courts of law) constituted by the State and invested with judicial and quasijudicial

functions

as

distinguished

from

administrative

or

executive

functions2.

Administrative tribunals have emerged not only in India but also in many other countries
with the objective of providing a new type of justice - public good oriented justice. These
tribunals manned by technical experts, with flexibility in operations, informality in
procedures have gained importance in the adjudication process.
According to Servai, the development of administrative law in a welfare state has made
administrative tribunals a necessity'.3 Administrative tribunals are authorities outside the
ordinary court system, which interpret and apply the laws when acts of public administration
are questioned in formal suits by the courts or by other established methods. They are not a
court nor are they an executive body. Rather they are a mixture of both. They are judicial in
the sense that the tribunals have to decide facts and apply them impartially, without
considering executive policy. They are administrative because the reasons for preferring
them to the ordinary courts of law are administrative reasons. The Supreme Court in Jaswant
Sugar Mills v.Lakshmi Chand4 laid down the following characteristics or tests to determine
whether an authority is a tribunal or not:
1.

Power of adjudication must be derived from a statute or statutory rule.

2.

It must possess the trappings of a court and thereby be vested with the power to summon

witnesses, administer oath, compel production of evidence, etc.


3.

Tribunals are not bound by strict rules of evidence.

4.

They are to exercise their functions objectively and judicially and to apply the law and

resolve disputes independently of executive policy.


5.

Tribunals are supposed to be independent and immune from any administrative

interference in the discharge of their judicial functions.

Thakker, C.K., Administrative Law, Eastern Book Company : Lucknow, 1996, p.226.
Ibid
3
Serwai ,HM, Constitutionsl law of India
4
AIR 1963 SC 677 at 687
2

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1989780

This project comprehensively deals with the all possible


aspects regarding the tribunals in India. An exhaustive research was done using secondary
sources from books, articles and over the internet. A comprehensive bibliography is provided
at the end of this project.

EVOLUTION OF TRIBUNAL SYSTEM IN INDIA

In India, administrative adjudication increased after independence and several welfare laws
were promulgated which vested the power on deciding various issues in the hands of the
administration. The modern Indian Republic was born a Welfare State and thus the burden on
the government to provide a host of welfare services to the people was immense. These
quasi-judicial powers acquired by the administration led to a huge number of cases with
respect to the manner in which these administrative bodies arrived at their decisions. The
Courts held that these bodies must maintain procedural safeguards while arriving at their
decisions and observe principles of natural justice-their opinions were substantiated by the
14th Law Commission Report.5 In order to avoid clogging the judicial machinery with cases
which would have arisen by the operation of these new socio-economic legislations, a
number of tribunals were established by the government. The tribunals were established with
the object of providing a speedy, cheap and decentralised determination of disputes arising
out of the various welfare legislations.6 Another important reason for the new development
is that law courts, on account of their elaborate procedures, legalistic fronts and attitudes can
hardly render justice to the parties concerned, in technical cases. Ordinary judges, brought up
in the traditions of law and jurisprudence, are not capable enough to understand technical
problems, which crop up in the wake of modem complex economic and social processes.
Only administrators having expert knowledge can tackle such problems judiciously. To meet
this requirement, a number of administrative tribunals have come into existence.

5
6

Nayak,R., Administrative justice In India, Butterwoths : New Delhi, 1989, p.38


Jain,M.P., Principles of Administrative Law, Wadhwa & Company : Nagpur, 1996, pp.246-248

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In India such tribunals were set up immediately after independence. In fact, the most
important adjudicatory function is carried out by statutory tribunals created by the legislature
to adjudicate upon certain disputes arising from administrative decisions or to determine
issues judicially.
The Railway Rates Tribunal, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Labour Tribunals, the
Companies Tribunal, various Compensation Tribunals, Revenue Courts of various States,
etc., can be cited as examples of such tribunals.7
Regarding the problem of backlog and delayed disposal of case the Government set up the
Administrative Reforms Commission in 1967. It was to examine the problem, suggests
solutions and also to recommend the suitable areas in which tribunals could be set up,
according to this commission The reasons for the growth of administrative tribunals are as follows:
1) Inadequacy of the traditional judiciary to effectively decide administration-related matters
especially when it came to technicalities.
2) The traditional judiciary was seen to be slow, costly and excessively procedural.
The Commission also recommended the establishment of independent tribunals in the following
areas:
a)

Service matters and dispute of employees under the state

b)

Orders of assessment on adjudication under Customs, Central Excise, Sales Tax and orders

under the Motor vehicles Act.

Period of emergency played a crucial role in the evolution of


tribunals in India. There were clear signals that the executive did not want the judiciary to interfere
with their developmental plans and other such decisions. Such as removing disputes
regarding elections to the office of President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Lok Sabha
beyond judicial scrutiny.8 Hence in 1976 the issue was discussed at the Conference of Chief
Secretaries and from amongst all these discussions and the reports of the various bodies stated above,
Parliament enacted the 42ndConstitution (Amendment) Act, 1976 inserting Articles 323A and 323B

Supra n.1 at p.66


th
Tribunalisation in India http://legalsutra.org/1446/tribunalisation-in-india/ as on 16
October, 2011.
8

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which provided for the establishment of administrative and other tribunals to deal with the matters
specifically provided for.

The main distinction that can be made out between article 323A and 323B is that while 323A allows
for the Parliament to by law provide for administrative tribunals to adjudicate disputes, 323B allows
for the any appropriate legislature, to by law create an administrative tribunal for the adjudication of
disputes.

Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985


In pursuance of Art 323-A Parliament has passed the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 covering all
matters falling within the clause (1) of Article 323- A. This Act authorises central government to
establish administrative tribunals for central services and on the application of States even for States
services as well as for local bodies and other authorities including public corporation. From the date
of establishment of tribunals all courts except the Supreme Court under Art 136 lose their jurisdiction
with respect to the matter falling within the jurisdiction of the tribunals.
A tribunal shall consist of Chairman and such number of Vice-Chairmen and other members as
appropriate Government may deem fit. They are appointed by the President in the case of Central
tribunals and by the President in consultation with the Governors or Governors in case of State or
joint Tribunals. The qualifications regarding that are laid down in the Act.9
Other aspects regarding administrative Tribunals are being discussed below different headings and
sub-headings.

Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 http://cgat.gov.in/act.htm as on 18th Oct,2011

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TYPES OF ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS

There are different types of administrative tribunals, which are governed by the statues, rules,
and regulations of the Central Government as well as State Governments.

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)

The enactment of Administrative Tribunals Act in 1985 opened a new chapter in


administering justice to the aggrieved government servants. It owes its origin to Article 323
A of the Constitution which empowers the Central Government to set up by an Act of
Parliament, the Administrative Tribunals for adjudication of disputes and complains with
respective recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to the public services
and posts in connection with the Union and the States.
The Tribunals enjoy the powers of the High Court in respect of service matters of the
employees covered by the Act. They are not bound by the technicalities of the Code of
Civil Procedure, but have to abide by the Principles of Natural Justice. They are
distinguished from the ordinary courts with regard to their jurisdiction and procedures. This
makes them free from the shackles of the ordinary courts and enables them to provide
speedy and inexpensive justice.
The Act provides for the establishment of Central Administrative Tribunal and State
Administrative Tribunals. The CAT was established in 1985. The Tribunal consists of a
Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Members. These Members are drawn from the judicial as well
as the administrative streams. The appeal against the decisions of the CAT lies with the
Supreme Court of India.

Customs and Excise Revenue Appellate Tribunal (CERAT)

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The Parliament passed the CERAT Act in 1986

The Tribunal adjudicate disputes,.

Complaints or offences with regard to customs and excise revenue. Appeals from the,
orders of the CERAT lies with the Supreme Court

Election Commission (EC)


The Election Commission is a tribunal for adjudication of matters pertaining to the allotment
of election symbols to parties and similar other problems. The decision of the commission
can be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Foreign Exchange Regulation Appellate Board (FERAB)

The Board has been set up under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973. A person who
is aggrieved by an order of adjudication for causing breach or committing offences under the
Act can file an appeal before the FERAB.

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal

This tribunal has been constituted under the Income Tax Act, 196 1. The Tribunal has its
benches in various cities and appeals can be filed before it by an aggrieved persons
against the order passed by the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner or Chief
Commissioner or Director of 1 n c o m e ' ~ a x . An appeal against the order of the Tribunal
lies to the High Court. An appeal also lies to the Supreme Court if the High Court deems fit.

Railway Rates Tribunal

This-Tribunal was set up under the Indian Railways Act, 1989.

It adjudicates matters

pertaining to the complaints against the railway administration. These may be related to the

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discriminatory or unreasonable rates, unfair charges or preferential treatment meted out by


the railway 'administration. The appeal against the order of the Tribunal lies with the
Supreme Court.

Industrial Tribunal

This Tribunal has been set up under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. It can be constituted
by' both the Central as well as State governments. The Tribunal looks into the dispute
between the employers and the workers in matters relating to wages, the period and mode
of payment, compensation and other allowances, hours of work, gratuity, retrenchment and
closure of the establishment. The appeals against the decision of the Tribunal lie with the
Supreme Court.

SOME FEATURES OF TRIBUNALS OF INDIA

Jurisdiction and Power:


1. After the coming into force of Administrative Tribunals Act, 198510, all judicial remedies
save those of the Supreme Court under Art 2 and 136 have been abolished and the pending
proceeding before other courts stand transferred before the regional Administrative Tribunals
under s.29 of the Act.

2. Administrative Tribunal is competent to exercise all powers which the respective courts
had, including declaration as to constitutionality of relevant laws. In short, the jurisdiction of
the Tribunal is not supplementary but is a complete substitute of the High Courts and Civil
Courts.11

10

The Act was brought into force with effect from 2-10-1985. The Central Administrative Tribunals was set up
on 1-11-1985.
11
Sampat Kumar, SP v. Union of India,(1987) 1 ATR 34

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3. In view of s.14 of the Administrative Tribunal Act,1985, in case where the suit lay, the
employee will now have to seek his remedy by application under s.19 of the Act. Pending
suits shall stand transferred to the Administrative Tribunal having territorial jurisdiction
under section 29 of the Act12.
4.

Section 29A (inserted in 1986) gives an appellant jurisdiction of the Central

Administrative Tribunal. Appeals from judgement of Civil Courts in suits relating to service
matter which are now governed by the A.T. Act shall lie to the Administrative Tribunals to
the exclusion of any other Civil Appellant Court or the High Court13.

The central

Administrative Tribunal is the Tribunal constituted under Art.323-A of the Constitution and
is expected to have the same jurisdiction as that of High Court.14
5. Orders of the Central Administrative Tribunals are nt open to challenge before the High
Court.
Sources of Tribunals Jurisdiction-

Suit of proceeding transferred to it under s.29 of the Act

S.19 deals with jurisdiction of entertaining original application relating to service


matters

Appellant jurisdiction under s.29A

What the Administrative Tribunals can do-

1. Unconstitutionality of Law
(a) The tribunal can declare the unconstitutional a statute or subordinate legislation relating to
the dispute before it, which contravenes provisions of the constitution.
(b) Whether a body would be an authority within the meaning of Art.12.

12

Cf. Kaptan Singh v, UOI (1986) 4 SLR 545 (Del)


UOI v. Deep Chand Pandey (1992) 4 SCC 432
14
UOI v. K D Batish AIR 2006 SC 789
13

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(c) In a case where enquiry has been dispensed with under the 2nd proviso to Art 311(2), the
tribunal is competent to examine the legal jurisdiction for such dispensation.15
(d) It may decide question of law, including preliminary pleas in bar, e.g. limitation; nonjoinder of party; territorial jurisdiction of the tribunal; res judicata.

2. Procedure
(i) A Tribunal is not barred by the provisions of the Evidence Act.16 In order to discover the
truth, the Tribunal may resort to the inquisitional procedure, provided no principle of natural
justice is violated.
(ii) Tribunals shall be guided solely by the principles of natural justice unfettered by anything
in the CPC and shall have the power to regulate its own procedure.
(iii) A plea of violation of statutory provision can be taken before the Tribunal though not
taken in the petition.
(iv) It is competent to execute its own order, though the A.T Act has no specific provision in
this behalf.

3. Disciplinary matters:
The Tribunal is competent to go into the facts and set aside the order passed by a disciplinary
authorityWhere the conclusion arrived at is arbitrary or perverse.
On the other hand , the Tribunal will not interfere
i. with the finding of facts of the enquiry officers where there was some evidence before him
on the basis of which he could reasonably come to the conclusion that the charges against the
petitioner were proved .

15
16

Om Prakash Pathak v. UOI (1986) 4 SLR 251


G Mohanti v. UOI ATR (1987) 1 CAT 229

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ii. with an order of rejection, by the Tribunal , of an application for reinstatement on the
grounds of inordinate and unexplained delay.
iii. There has been some difference of opinion amongst the tribunals as to how far, if at all,
they may interfere with the punishment awarded by a disciplinary authority

Likewise, Administrative Tribunals can perform other functions of Punishment,


Compulsory retirement, Interlocutory matters etc.

What the Administrative Tribunals cannot doHowever wide be the jurisdiction of the tribunal, it cannot exercise any jurisdiction of power
which no court could exercise, e.g.,(a) To question the ground of satisfaction of the President under Cl. (c) of the second proviso
to Art.311 (2) 17
(b) To go into the merits of an administrative determination in the absence of mala fides,
arbitrariness, colourable exercise of power or exercise of power without jurisdiction; or a
finding without any evidence at all.
(c) To overrule or by-pass decision of the High Court which are binding on it as precedents.
(d) Though, like the High Court or a Civil Court, an administrative Tribunal has jurisdiction
to make interim order in like circumstances.

17

Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or a State
(2) No such person as aforesaid shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in
which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in
respect of those charges Provided that where it is proposed after such inquiry, to impose upon him any such
penalty, such penalty may be imposed on the basis of the evidence adduced during such inquiry and it shall
not be necessary to give such person any opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed:
Provided further that this clause shall not apply
(c) where the President or the Governor, as the case may be, is satisfied that in the interest of the security of
the State, it is not expedient to hold such inquiry

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Appeal from Administrative Tribunal to Supreme Court:

1. Though the jurisdiction of High Court under Art 226 over service matter has been taken
over by the respective Administrative Tribunals Act 1985, the jurisdiction of the Supreme
Court over these Tribunals under Art.136 has been retained.
2. Appeals lies to the Supreme Court from orders of an Administrative Tribunal, by special
leave under Art 136, on the following grounds(i) Error of Law
(ii) Finding of the Tribunal being perverse.
(iii) The order of the Tribunal being without jurisdiction or ultra vires.
(iv) The order of the Tribunals being arbitrary or mala fide.
(v) The order of the Tribunal is such as would lead to grave injustice.

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Judicial interpretation

As mentioned earlier, the Administrative Tribunals Act was passed in 1985 under article
323A and section 28 of this Act provided for the exclusion of jurisdiction of all courts except
that of the Supreme Court under Article 13618. This fuelled a sudden spurt in the number of
cases that challenged the validity of the said legislation as well as that of the 42nd Amendment
that introduced Articles 323A and 323B in to the constitution. Some of the prominent case in
this regard is discussed below.
1. S.P.Sampath Kumar v. Union of India19
This is the first and perhaps the most important case in this period that attracted judicial
scrutiny in this area. The Constitution Bench in Sampath kumar was called upon to decide on
the main issue whether Section 28 of the Act was unconstitutional as it excludes judicial
review, which was contended as part of the basic structure of the constitution20. The Supreme
Court accepted without doubt that judicial; review is part of the basic structure. However the
Court went on to observe that the creation of alternate institutional mechanisms which were
as effective as the High Courts would not be violative of the basic structure. The
administrative Tribunals under the Act were recognized as effective substitutes of the High
Courts. This proved to be a shot in the arm of the proponents of tribunalisation. However the
Apex Court came down heavily on the procedure for appointing the Chairman of the
Tribunal. Section 6(1) (c) of the Act allowed a person who held the post of a Secretary to the
Government of India or an equivalent post t become the Chairman. Since these Tribunals
were to be substitutes of High Courts it is impermissible for bureaucrats to hold such a post.
Hence this provision was held to be unconstitutional. The Chairman should be a retiring or
retired Chief Justice of a High Court. Other members have to appointed by a committee
consisting of a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court. It was also suggested that the Chief
Justice of India has to consult while making these appointments. The Parliament accepted
these recommendations and now they find a place in the Act by way of the Administrative
Tribunals (Amendment) Act of 1986.
18

Joshi, K. C., Legal Status of Tribunals, IBR, Vol. 25 (2), 1998


AIR 1987 SC 386
20
During the pendency of the case, the Government gave an assurance to the Court that the Act would be
amended so that the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 32 was not excluded. The Act was
consequently amended after the decision.
19

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2. Sambamurthy v. State of Andhra Pradesh21

It was held in this case that Article 371D (5) of the constitution, which was inserted by the
Constitution (32nd Amendment) Act,1973, was unconstitutional and void. This provision had
enabled the Government of Andhra Pradesh to modify or nullify any order of the
Administrative tribunal of that state. It was pointed out that such a provision was violative of
the basic structure as it made the tribunal not as effective as the High Court when it comes to
judicial review. Here the Court seems to be strictly adhering to the directive in Sampath
Kumars case that the administrative tribunals should be effective substitutes to the High
Court.

3. J.B.Chopra v. Union of India22


It was held that since the Administrative tribunals are meant to be substitutes of High Courts,
their power of judicial review extended to power as to decide on the constitutionality of
service rules.
However, soon we see a reversal of trend leading to a lot of confusion.
In M.B.Majumdar v. Union of India23 the Supreme Court refused to extend the service
conditions and other benefits enjoyed by ordinary High Court judges to the members of these
Tribunals. Three years later, in R.K.Jain v. Union of India24, the Supreme Court opined that
these Tribunals could not be effective substitutes of High Courts under Articles 226 and 227.
We also find very clear expression of dissatisfaction of the apex court regarding the
functioning and effectiveness of Administrative Tribunals especially with regard to their
power of judicial review.

21

(1987) I SCC 386


(1987) I SCC 422.
23
(1990) 4 SCC 501.
24
(1993) 4 SCC 119
22

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4. Sakinala Harinath v. State of Andhra Pradesh25

In this case, the Andhra Pradesh High Court dropped a bomb shell by expressing serious
doubts about the wisdom of the learned Judges in Sampath Kumars case. The Full Bench
ruled that the ruling in the above case equating Administrative Tribunals to the High courts
with respect to their jurisdiction under Articles 226 and 227 was inconsistent with the apex
courts ruling in cases like Kesavanda Bharati v. State of Kerala26 and Indira Gandhi v. Raj
Narain27. It was pointed out that the constitutional courts could only exercise the power of
judicial review. Since the logic of alternative institutional mechanism propounded in Sampath
Kumars case does not fit in to this scheme, it is constitutionally impermissible. As a result
both Articles 323A(d) and section 28 of the Act were struck down as unconstitutional.
The judicial green signal given for tribunalisation given in Sampath Kumar can be seen to be
slowly fading because of the subsequent decisions.The confusion created by these conflicting
decisions ushered in the need for taking a second look at S.P. Sampath Kumars case. This
opportunity arrived when a three judge bench of the Supreme Court in L. Chandrakumar v.
Union of India28 decided to refer the matter to a larger bench. This eventually led to the
famous ruling of the Seven Judge Bench of the Supreme Court on L. Chandrakumar v. Union
of India, which is now the law of the land.

5. L. Chandrakumars Case

The important issues considered by the apex court were as follows:


1. Whether Art. 323A (2) (d) and Art.323B (3) (d) of the constitution which give the
power to the Union and State Legislatures to exclude the jurisdiction of all courts
except that of the Supreme Court under Art.136, is in accordance with the power of
judicial review embodied in Art.32 and 226.

25

1993 (2) An. W.R.484 (FB)


(1973) 4 SCC 225
27
AIR 1975 SC 2291
28
AIR 1995 SC 1151
26

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2. Whether the power of High Courts to exercise the powers of superintendence over the
subordinate judiciary under Articles 226 and 227 form part of Basic Structure.
3. The competence of the aforesaid tribunals to determine the constitutionality of any
law.
4. Whether the aforesaid tribunals are acting as affective substitutes to High Courts in
terms of efficiency.

It was held that the power of judicial review over legislative and administrative action is
expressly vested with the High Courts and the Supreme Court under Articles 226 and 32
respectively. The contention that the constitutional safeguards which ensure the independence
of the higher judiciary29 is not available to the lower judiciary and bodies such as Tribunals
was upheld and the Apex Court consequently held that the lower judiciary would not be able
to serve as effective substitutes to the higher judiciary in matters of constitutional
interpretation and judicial review. Hence the power of judicial review is vested in the higher
judiciary and the power of High Courts and the Supreme Court to test the constitutional
validity of legislative and administrative action cannot ordinarily be ousted. However it was
held that these tribunals and the lower judiciary could exercise the role of judicial review as
supplement to the superior judiciary. The court applied the provisions of Article 32(3) to
uphold the same.

29

In terms of qualifications, mode of appointment, tenure, mode of removal, etc.

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ADVANTAGES OF ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL


Administrative adjudication is a dynamic system of administration, which serves, more
adequately than any other method, the varied and complex needs of the modem society. The
main advantages of the administrative tribunals are:
1) Flexibility
Administrative adjudication has brought about flexibility and adaptability in the judicial as
well as administrative tribunals. For instance, the courts of law exhibit a good deal of
conservatism and inelasticity of outlook and approach. The justice they administer may
become out of harmony with the rapidly changing social conditions. Administrative
adjudication, not restrained by rigid rules of procedure and canons of evidence, can
remain in tune with the varying phases of social and economic life.

2) Adequate Justice
In the fast changing world of today, administrative tribunals are not only the most
appropriated means of administrative action, but also the most effective means of giving fair
justice to the individuals. Lawyers, who are more concerned about aspects of law, find it
difficult to adequately assess the needs of the modem welfare society and to locate the
individuals place in it.

3) Less Expensive
Administrative justice ensures cheap and quick justice. As against this, procedure in the law
courts is long and cumbersome and litigation is costly. It involves payment of huge court
fees, engagement of lawyers and meeting of other incidental charges.

Administrative

adjudication, in most cases, requires no stamp fees. Its procedures are simple and can be
easily understood by a layman.

4) Relief to Courts
The system also gives the much-needed relief to ordinary courts of law, which are already
overburdened with ordinary suits.

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DISADVANTAGES OF ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS


Even though administrative adjudication is essential and useful in modem day administration,
we should not be blind to the defects from which it suffers or the dangers it poses to a
democratic polity. Some of the main drawbacks are mentioned below.
(i) Administrative adjudication is a negation of Rule of Law. Rule of Law ensures equality
before law for everybody and the supremacy of ordinary law and due procedure of law over
governmental arbitrariness. But administrative tribunals, with their separate laws and
procedures often made by themselves, puts a serious limitation upon the celebrated principles
of Rule of Law.

(ii) Administrative tribunals have in most cases, no set procedures and sometimes they
violate even the principles of natural justice.

(iii) Administrative tribunals often hold summary trials and they do not follow any
precedents. As such it is not possible to predict the course of future decisions.

(iv) The civil and criminal courts have a uniform pattern of administering justice and
centuries of experience in the administration of civil and criminal laws have borne
testimony to the advantages of uniform procedure. A uniform code of procedure in
administrative adjudication is not there.

(v) Administrative tribunals are manned by administrators and technical heads who may not
have the background of law or training of judicial work. Some of them may not possess the
independent outlook of a judge.

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STATUS AND WORKING OF TRIBUNALS IN INDIA


Tribunals are essentially those bodies of the Executive branch of the government who by
virtue of some statutory provision have the power and duty to act judicially in determining
disputes which come before it.30 Tribunals as stated earlier are distinct from the ordinary
courts of the land and as per Chandrakumars case they are not on par with the High Courts
but serve a supplemental function to the High Courts. They are therefore subject to the writ
jurisdiction of the superior judiciary and to the power of judicial review exercisable by the
superior judiciary. In most of the tribunals appeals from their decisions lie in the High Court
on substantial questions of law.
There are different types of tribunals in India, ranging from single member tribunals to multimember tribunals. Tribunals such as the Industrial tribunal may consist of one or more
members, and they can be appointed by the appropriate government. The chairman of the
tribunal is supposed to possess judicial qualifications and is supposed to be or have been a
judge of the High Court or a District judge or be qualified for appointment as a High Court
judge. The other members are expected to satisfy the prescribed requirements- which are to
ensure that the members are experts and will be able to speedily and effectively dispose of
matters. The procedure to be followed by the tribunal is prescribed by the Act and rules made
there under. Though the function of the tribunal is to adjudicate on the disputes it has only
some of the trappings of the court. It is not bound by strict rules of procedure and can take
decisions by exercising its discretion. While accepting the fact that such tribunals must work
towards furthering social justice, it has been held in J&K Iron and Steel Co. v. Mazdoor
Union 31that tribunal cannot act beyond the scope of the law. It can decide the dispute on the
basis of the pleadings and has no power to reach a conclusion without any evidence on
record. The tribunal is expected to hold the proceedings in public, follow fair procedure and
decide disputes impartially and independently.
All tribunals in India are arranged on the following basis:
a)

Created by a statute

b)

subject to the writ jurisdiction of the superior judiciary and to judicial review.

c)

Manned by experts and persons with judicial experience.

30
31

nd

Chakraverti, S., Administrative Law and Tribunals, 2 edition, The Law Book Co. Ltd.: Allahabad
AIR 1956 SC 231

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d)

subject to the superintendence of the concerned High Court under Art.227

e)

Decisions may be final or appealable within the tribunal or in certain cases to the High

Court.
appeals against orders of the tribunal may be heard by the Supreme Court by special leave
under Art. 136.

TRIBUNALS AND NATURAL JUSTICE:

Administrative tribunals must act openly, fairly and impartially. They must afford a
reasonable opportunity to the parties to represent their case and adduce evidence. Thus,
in State of U.P. v. Md. Nooh32 where the prosecutor was also an adjudcating officer and also
in Dhakeshwari Mills33where the tribunal did not disclose some evidence to the assessee
which was relied upon, the decisions were set aside.
In Union of India v. T.R. Verma34 the Supreme Court held the following to be part of natural
justice:
a)

Party must be able to adduce all evidence being relied upon.

b)

Evidence must be taken in the presence of both parties.

c)

Must be given opportunity to cross- examine.

d)

And no material must be relied upon without giving the party opportunity to explain the

evidence.
Tribunals are free to evolve their own method of procedure as long as they conform to the
principles of natural justice as outlined above.

32

AIR 1958 SC 86
AIR 1955 SC154
34
AIR 1957 SC 882 at 885
33

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Tribunals are also expected to give reasoned decisions so as to introduce clarity, reduce
arbitrariness and reduce the scope of frivolous appeals. It also provides the supervisory
authority the opportunity to keep tribunals within bounds.

LETS SUM UP

In view of the increasing role of administration in citizens' life, the administrative


tribunals are expected to play an important role in the redressal of citizens' grievances. In this
unit we have examined the nature of administrative tribunals and the various reasons for their
g o p i n g importance. Various types of administrative tribunals are set up in the country to
address various issues, such as, the adjudication of disputes and complaints of the public
servants, redressal of consumer disputes, industrial disputes, disputes pertaining to
income tax etc.
They provide greater flexibility in administering justice and provide relief to the courts. But
at the same time they suffer from some limitations as they sometimes violate the principles of
natural justice, lack uniform pattern of administering justice and also suffer from the lack of a
proper background on law or judicial work. However, with certain safeguards it is possible
to rectify some of these limitations. The administrative tribunals should have people with
legal training and experience. A code of judicial procedures should be devised and enforced
for their functioning.

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CONCLUSION
In practice there are a number of tribunals functioning in the country. Very few of them,
however, have been able to inspire confidence in the public. The tribunals have shown a
singular lack of competence and objectivity in determining disputes. Another reason for their
failure is the constitution of the tribunals and the method of appointment of the personnel.
Persons with expertise and the right qualifications do not want to sit on these tribunals thus
leading to the unsatisfactory functioning of these tribunals.35 The uncertainty of tenure,
unsatisfactory service conditions, interference by the executive and political interference have
further impeded the proper development of tribunals in India. Tribunals are supposed to
provide specialised adjudicatory services but the type of people appointed lack the requisite
expertise and are on the tribunals merely because of political pressure and executive
interference.
Tribunals are supposed to serve as alternative institutional mechanisms to high courts, they
must therefore be able to inspire public confidence by proving themselves to be a competent
and expert mechanism with a judicial and objective approach. In order to achieve this it is
essential that members of the tribunal are equipped with adequate judicial acumen and
expertise. These judicial officers need to be balanced with experts in the particular field. Only
a judicious blend of the two will be able to provide an effective and result oriented tribunal
system. Another important measure which needs to be taken are steps to maintain the
independence of the members of these tribunals from political or executive interference. Just
as the ordinary judiciary are protected from political control through security of tenure and
through institutionalized methods of appointment ( through a selection committee comprising
of the Chief Justice, Departmental secretaries, etc.) in order to further reduce the burden on
the high courts the high courts must be divested of the supervisory jurisdiction over the
tribunals. It is essential therefore that a single centralised nodal agency be established to
oversee the functioning of the tribunals. Such a centralised umbrella organisation will ensure
the independence of the tribunals in matters of tenure and funds.
Thus the overall picture regarding tribunalisation of justice in the country is far from
satisfactory. A fresh look at the system of tribunals in India is required so as to ensure speedy
justice and quick disposal of disputes arising out of administrative disputes which are
essential for the development of the nation.

35

th

Sathe, S.P., Adminiostrative Law, 6 . Edn., Butterworths, New Delhi, 1999, pp. 245-252

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