Report No. 162
Review of Functioning of Central Administrative Tribunal; Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal and Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal
1.1. The Supreme Court of India in the case of R.K. Jain v. Union of India, (1993) 4 SCC 119 (A.M. Ahmadi, J.) speaking for himself and M.M. Punchhi, J. (as they then were) directed the Law Commission to make a comprehensive study of the functioning of the several tribunals in India and to suggest measures for their improved functioning.
It was observed that the Law Commission of India may also suggest changes in the different statutes and evolve a model on the basis whereof tribunals may be constituted or reconstituted with a view to ensure greater independence. It would be appropriate to set out the relevant observations made in the said decision:-
"8. Lastly, the time is ripe for taking stock of the working of the various tribunals set up in the country after the insertion of Articles 323A and 323B in the Constitution. A sound justice delivery system is a sine qua non for the efficient governance of a country wedded to the rule of law. An independent and impartial justice delivery system in which the litigating public has faith and confidence alone can deliver the goods. After the incorporation of these two Articles, Acts have been enacted whereunder tribunals have been constituted for dispensation of justice.
Sufficient time has passed and experience gained in these last few years for taking stock of the situation with a view to finding out if they have served the purpose and objectives for which they were constituted. Complaints have been heard in regard to the functioning of other tribunals as well and it is time that a body like the Law Commission of India has a comprehensive look-in with a view to suggesting measures for their improved functioning.
That body can also suggest changes in the different statutes and evolve a model on the basis whereof tribunals may be constituted or reconstituted with a view to ensuring greater independence. An intensive and extensive study needs to be undertaken by the Law Commission in regard to the constitution of tribunals under various statutes with a view to ensuring their independence so that the public confidence in such tribunals may increase and the quality of their performance may improve.
We strongly recommend to the Law Commission of India to undertake such an exercise on priority basis. A copy of this judgment may be forwarded by the Registrar of this Court to the Member-Secretary of the Commission for immediate action."
1.2. To the same effect are the observations of K. Ramaswamy, J. who delivered a separate concurring judgment in the said decision. The learned Judge 'Observed-
"Before parting with the case it is necessary to express our anguish over the ineffectively of the alternative mechanism devised for judicial reviews. The judicial review and remedy are fundamental rights of the citizens. The dispensation of justice by the tribunals is much to be desired. We are not doubting the ability of the members or Vice-Chairman (non-Judges) who may be experts in their regular service. But judicial adjudication is a special process and would efficiently be administered by advocate Judges.
The remedy of appeal by special leave under Article 136 to this Court also proves to be costly and prohibitive and far-flung distance too is working as constant constraint to litigant public who could ill afford to reach this Court. An appeal to a Bench of two Judges of the respective High Courts over the orders of the tribunals within its territorial jurisdiction on questions of law would assuage a growing feeling of injustice of those who can ill afford to approach the Supreme Court.
Equally the need for recruitment of members of the Bar to man the tribunals as well as the working system of the tribunals need fresh look and regular monitoring is necessary. An expert body like the Law Commission of India would make an in-depth study in this behalf including the desirability to bring CEGAT under the control of Law and Justice Department in line with Income-tax Appellate Tribunal and to make appropriate urgent recommendations to the Government of India who should take remedial steps by an appropriate legislation to overcome the handicaps and difficulties and make the tribunals effective and efficient instruments for making judicial review efficacious, inexpensive and satisfactory."
1.3. The Law Commission of India accordingly took up the matter for consideration, prepared a 'Questionnaire' and a 'Revised Additional Questionnaire' (Annexures I & II respectively) and circulated the same for opinion . to all concerned persons, departments and authorities. The response has been quite encouraging. It has received opinions, suggestions and comments from various sources which have been duly considered by the Commission.
1.4. The Commission would have submitted its report in the year 1996 itself but for the fact that it was brought to its notice that the issue relating to functioning of the Administrative Tribunals and the validity of Articles 323A and 323B of the Constitution of India has been referred to a larger Constitution Bench for consideration and that the same was pending. In view of the said information, the Commission withheld further action awaiting the opinion of the Supreme Court in the matter.
The seven-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has since delivered its judgment in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, (1997) 3 SCC 261. The unanimous opinion of the Court has been delivered by A.M. Ahmadi, C.J. The essential features of the judgment are in the succeeding Chapters.
1.5. The above decision is extremely significant and relevant for the purpose of this study and has accordingly been kept in mind while preparing this report.