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Report No. 215

7. Administrative Tribunals - Essential

7.1 The reasons for which the Administrative Tribunals were constituted still persist; indeed, those reasons have become more pronounced in our times. We have already indicated that our Constitutional scheme permits setting up of such tribunals.1

7.2 In respect of the grave concern with the increasing pendency of litigation before the High Courts, the theory of 'alternative institutional mechanisms' has also been propounded to defend the establishment of Administrative Tribunals. These Administrative Tribunals are expected to function as a viable substitute for the High Courts.

7.3 As per the statistics furnished to the Parliamentary Standing Committee2 by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, from the period 1.11.85 to 28.02.06, the total cases instituted in the Central Administrative Tribunal were 470365, those disposed of were 4,46,369 and those pending were 23996. Taking into account the excellent rate of disposal of the cases, the Committee found no coherent reason to favour the abolition of Administrative Tribunals.

The Committee noted that the record of disposal of cases of Administrative Tribunals has been excellent as compared to that of the subordinate courts and High Courts. The abolition of the Administrative Tribunals will increase the pending cases in the High Courts whereby speedy justice will be denied to the citizens by putting additional burden on the High Courts. After detailed discussion, the Committee unanimously opined as under:

"if an appeal is to be provided, it should be provided to the Supreme Court only."3

7.4 Further, the Committee noted with grave concern that the High Courts are already overburdened with huge number of pending cases there are approximately 34 lakh cases pending before High Courts.4

7.5 Hon'ble Mr. Justice V. S. Malimath stressed before the Committee as under:

"Parliament enacted Article 323A to provide for special Tribunals for the purpose of hearing specialized matters like service matters on two grounds. One is, High Court is so much burdened with other types of works and, therefore, it is not possible for it to expeditiously dispose of service matters. Second is, service matters need an amount of specialization and, therefore, an element of experience of service matters is necessary.

Therefore, specialized tribunals were constituted excluding the jurisdiction of all courts of the country including the High Court. If these cases are pending for a long time, the Government servant, who is expected to assist in administration, will go on lingering before courts and his service will be affected. With this heart, will he be able to do work in the Government? So, expeditious disposal is necessary from the point of view of administration and that is the intention, and that is what has been debated when Article 323A was enacted."5

7.6 The Committee took note of the fact that the Hon'ble Supreme Court has made it amply clear that the Tribunals will continue to act as the only courts of first instance in respect of the areas of law for which they have been constituted and that it will not be open for litigants to directly approach the High Courts even in cases where they question the vires of statutory legislations. The Committee was of the considered opinion that since the apex Court has upheld the necessity of Administrative Tribunals in such clear terms, there is no iota of doubt as to the fact that Administrative Tribunals are absolutely essential for the speedy redressal of grievances of Government employees.

7.7 Hon'ble Mr. Justice K. G. Balakrishnan, the Chief Justice of India, has expressed the view that in the light of L.Chandra Kumar decision, it is desirable to continue with the administrative tribunals, despite the power of the High Courts to scrutinize their decisions.6

7.8 The High Court is at the apex of the State Judicial apparatus. Unless the base level, where litigation is initiated and vertically moves upward to the High Court by way of appeal or revision, is restructured and this proliferating appellate jurisdiction is either controlled or curtailed, the inflow of work in the High Court would neither be regulated nor diminished.

The Law Commission expressed the view that, wherever possible, proliferating appellate and wide original jurisdiction should be controlled or curtailed without impairing the quality of justice. The approach of the Commission is to reduce number of appeals, to set up specialist courts/tribunals, simultaneously eliminating the jurisdiction of the High Court.7

7.9 On the issue of delay which continues to affect the system in the matter of resolution of service disputes, it has been generally noted that the disposal of the applications before the Administrative Tribunal always has been expeditious and hardly there is pendency of old cases in most of the Benches. But, because orders of the Administrative Tribunal are subjected to challenge before the High Courts and thereafter some matters are taken to the Supreme Court, ultimate remedy comes only at late stages, thus effectively defeating the very purpose of constituting the Administrative Tribunals.

7.10 When the Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007 is a reality, members participating in the Conference6 were of opinion that the Administrative Tribunals Act could be suitably amended in line with the prescriptions of the latest Act of the Parliament. Thus an amendment of the Administrative Tribunals Act and an amendment of the Constitution would result in tremendous changes for the good.

1. JT 1997 (3) SC 589, paragraph 91.

2. Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, PUblic Grievances, Law and Justice, Seventeenth Report on the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2006, December 2006, paragraph 11.17.

3. Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, PUblic Grievances, Law and Justice, Seventeenth Report on the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2006, December 2006, paragraph 13.5.

4. Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, Seventeenth Report on the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2006, December 2006, paragraph 13.8.

5. Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, PUblic Grievances, Law and Justice, Seventeenth Report on the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Bill, 2006, December 2006, paragraph 13.13.

6. Keynote address at the inaugural session of the 'All India conference of the Central Administrative Tribunal' held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi, on 2nd August, 2008.

7. Supra pages 17-18.

7.11 The Law Commission is of the view that Administrative Tribunals are a valuable and indeed an essential part of adjudicatory system of a democratic State. The tribunals have come to stay. Special tribunals are likely to grow rather than diminish.

7.12 In view of the enhanced minimum required qualifications of Chairman, Members - Judicial/Administrative, in particular, Administrative, and giving the status of Chief Justice of High Court to the Chairman, and that of Judges of High Court to Members - Judicial/Administrative, the best persons available in the judiciary and administration are now attracted and are being accordingly selected to occupy the respective posts, as mentioned above.

The Tribunal is thus now manned by persons having vast experience in judiciary and administration, resulting not only into quick disposal of cases, but quality judgments as well. In the beginning when the Act of 1985 came into being and cases came to be disposed of by the Tribunal, there may have been an impression that Members of the Tribunal may not be having legal expertise to deal with intricate questions of law and fact. With the advent of time, the situation has improved vastly and speedy and quality justice dispensed by the Tribunal has come for appreciation by all.

L. Chandra Kumar be revisited by Larger Bench of Supreme Court Back

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