Not many would have taken a notice of this, but this piece of reform is nonetheless a land mark one. An Ordinance with this regard is already in force, and is likely to be passed by Parliament in the upcoming monsoon session.

The concept of tribunals was introduced in the 42nd Constitutional Amendment which was passed during emergency when (almost)all opposition MPs was jailed by Indira G.

Article 323A and 323B in Part IVA of Indian Constitution speak about tribunals. Tribunals are essentially courts to adjudicate on many matters like say Company matters, Labor disputes, Land reform matters, disputes related to Govt. employees etc.

What was the flaw in the tribunals?

  1. The tribunals were “quasi-judicial” bodies, yet the judges were appointed by the Central or State Govt. In many matters, the Govt itself is the litigant and Govt. itself appointed the judges. I do a crime and I become my own judge. Sounds funny, right?
  2. Many tribunals had appellate tribunals and the appeal from the appellate tribunals lay to Supreme Court. For e.g. NCLT judgements could be appealed to NCLAT and then to Supreme Court. The judgements from NGT can be appealed to Supreme Court only.
  3. This reduced the power of Courts, there by weakening Indian Judiciary. As we know, the Gandhis never believed in the democratic principle of “Separation Of Power”. Essentially the tribunals were a parallel judiciary under the control of the Govt. The Gandhis always wanted the judiciary to remain under their control.

What reforms the Bill proposes?

  1. The bill abolishes many appellate tribunals and the appeal to decision of the lowest tribunal will lie to High Court, or in some cases Commercial Court or District Courts. Refer to table at the end.
  2. The judges of any tribunal will not be appointed by the Govt., but by a “Search and Select Committee” which will have 4 members – 2 from Judiciary and 2 nominated by Govt, and all selections will be done by majority decision of the members present and voting. This will reduce Govt’s powers in appointing judges.

This reform is a welcome step and proves Modi Govt’s dedication to democratic principles and belief in “Separation of Powers”. The control of Govt on adjudication of disputes will reduce once the bill is passed.

Though this is a welcome step, I think Govt eventually should give up its powers completely in matter of appointment of Tribunal members. A system like here should be put in place.

But, yes, the Govt. needs to be given credit for the reform.

ActsAppellate bodyProposed entity
The Cinematograph Act, 1952Appellate TribunalHigh Court
The Trade Marks Act, 1999Appellate BoardHigh Court
The Copyright Act, 1957Appellate BoardCommercial Court or the Commercial Division of a High Court
The Customs Act, 1962Authority for Advance RulingsHigh Court
The Patents Act, 1970Appellate BoardHigh Court
The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994Airport Appellate TribunalCentral government, for disputes arising from the disposal of properties left on airport premises by unauthorised occupants.High Court, for appeals against orders of an eviction officer.
The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002Airport Appellate TribunalCivil Court
The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999Appellate BoardHigh Court
Source: PRS

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