Tribunalization of Justice
This article proceeds to analyze the position and outcome of justice with regard to the tribunal system in India.
“Tribunal means a set or a bench upon which judge or judges sit and decide controversies between the parties and exercises judicial powers as distinguished from purely administrative functions.”
The word “Tribunal” has not been defined in the constitution or in any other law.
But the word has been defined by courts in the following cases:
In Durga Shankar Mehta v/s Raghuraj Singh The Supreme Court defined tribunal in the following words:
The expressional Tribunal as used in Article 136 does not mean the same thing as ‘Court’ but includes, within its ambit, all adjudicating bodies, provided they are constituted by the state and are vested with judicial functions as distinguished from administrative or executive functions.
In the words of M P Jain, with regard to the functioning of a tribunal, tribunals do not have to follow any uniform procedure as laid down under the Civil Procedure Code and under the India Evidence Act of 1872 but they have to follow the principles of Natural Justice.
In Bharat Bank Ltd v/s Employees Bharat Bank Ltd. The court stated that the tribunals are adjudicating bodies which decide controversies between the parties and exercise judicial functions as distinguished from administrative functions.
The tribunals are established in order to provide speedy, cheap determination of disputes and to reduce the workload of the courts. The traditional judicial system proved to be inadequate to decide and settle the disputes as it was slow, costly, complex and formalistic.
The Industrial Tribunals, Railway Rates Tribunal, Companies Tribunals, Central Administrative Tribunals, Election Tribunals etc, are the examples of Tribunals in India.
An Administrative Reforms Commission was set up in 1967 by the Government of India to recommend the suitable areas in which tribunals could be set up. The Commission recommended the establishment of tribunals in the following areas namely:-
a. Service matters and Dispute of employees under the State
b. Orders of assessment on adjudication under customs, Central Exercise, Sales Tax and orders under the Motor Vehicles Act.
However, the Constitutional Status to the Tribunals were given by the 42nd (Amendment) Act, 1976 which inserted Articles 323A and 323B by which Parliament has been authorized to constitute administrative and other Tribunals to decide and adjudicate the matters specific therein.
Prior to 42nd Amendment, Tribunals were under the control of concerned High Court and their orders were appealable in the High Court. These orders were also subject to the Writ
Jurisdiction of the High Court and Supreme Court under Article 226 and 32 of Constitution of India respectively. But after the 42nd Amendment and with the insertion of Articles 323A and 323B, the legislature had the power to exclude the Writ Jurisdiction. The only appeal, which will lie from the orders of these Tribunals, is a specific leave petition to Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.
Part XIV-A which consist of two Articles 323A and 323B deals with these Tribunals.
Article 323A provides for the adjudication of disputes and complaints with respect to the recruitment and condition of service of persons appointed to public services and post in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State or of any local or other authority within the territory of India.
Article 323B empowers the Parliament or State Legislature to set up Tribunals for the following matters:
a. Levy, assessment, collection and enforcement of any tax;
b. Foreign exchange, import and export across customs frontiers;
c. Industrial and labor disputes;
d. Matters connected with land reforms covered under Article 31-A;
e. Ceiling on Urban property;
f. Elections to either House of Parliament or Legislatures of the States and;
g. Production, procurement, supply and distribution of food stuffs or other essential goods.
Judicial Review of Decisions of Tribunals
No appeal, revision or reference against the decision of any Tribunal is maintained if the said right is not conferred by the relevant Statue. Provisions can also be made ouster of jurisdiction of civil court; and the decision rendered by these Tribunals will be treated as final.
However if the Tribunal has:-
a. Acted without jurisdiction or
b. Failed to exercise jurisdiction or
c. Order passed by Tribunal arbitrary or malafide or
d. Not observed the principles of natural justice or
e. Made error apparent on face of record or
f. Made an order which is ultra vires of the act
Then the same can be set aside by the High Court or Supreme Court.
The Tribunals plays an important role and part in the sphere of the adjudication of disputes. Tribunals function differently from courts, from the manner of appointment to the procedure followed. The Tribunals do not have to follow any uniform procedure as laid down under the Civil Procedure Code and under the Indian Evidence Act but they have to follow the principles of Natural Justice. But still they seek to achieve the same objective as that of the courts i.e. – To impart and deliver Justice.
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