NATURE OF ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS

Introduction

Administrative law means the various set of processes, rules, and legal institutions which govern government institutions for the execution of legislation and management of government programs. As a result, administrative law incorporates important political and social objectives such as democracy, justice, and effectiveness. It also places huge attention on a factual study on the influence of the courts on administrations, as the judicial process has long been seen as a means of holding administrators accountable to democratic regulatory choices. To understand how legislation might alter governing and enhance the contribution of public institutions, administrative law depends on the methodologies and findings of social science. In India, Administrative law is a key part of controlling delegated legislation, and subjecting administrative discretionary decisions to judicial review are two methods to regulate administrative actions. It also specifies how tribunals will be formed and who will serve on them. As a result, with the goal of achieving socioeconomic justice as a deliberate purpose of state policy, the frequency with which ordinary citizens directly deal with state powerholders will inevitably arise. Administrative law is a powerful tool for achieving a balance between administration and justice. The administrators are governed by the primary legislation of the state, which is the Indian constitution.

Meaning and Definition

The word “Tribunal” means “Judge’s Seat” in the dictionary. According to Administrative Law, the word ‘Tribunal’ is employed in a specific meaning, according to I.P. Massey, and refers to adjudicatory bodies beyond the scope of Conventional Courts of Land. The Supreme Court decided in Associated Cement Co. Ltd. v. P.N. Sharma (AIR 1965 SC 1595) that a Tribunal may possess some but not all of the trappings of the Court. In terms of its functionality, the administrative tribunal is neither purely judicial nor entirely administrative, but rather sits in the centre.

Raghuraj Singh v. Durga Shankar Mehta (AIR 1954 SC 520) The Supreme Court defined tribunal as follows: The term Tribunal, as used in A-136, does not mean the same thing as court; rather, it encompasses all adjudicating bodies, provided they are established by states and have judicial but instead of administrative or executive powers.

Definition

A tribunal is a quasi-judicial body established to address issues such as resolving administrative or tax-related disagreements. It is responsible for a wide range of tasks, including resolving disputes, determining rights among settling disputes, making administrative judgments, evaluating rulings, and so on. The main task of delivering justice in India is committed to regularly formed Courts based on the Common Law system.[1]

Administrative tribunals in India

In India, the history of tribunals may be traced back to 1941-42, when the first tribunal, the Income-Tax Appellate Tribunal, was created. The Tribunals, on the other hand, were formed to minimize the burden of courts, for fast rulings, and provide a forum led by attorneys and professionals inside the subjects included by the Tribunal’s authority. The Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act of 1976 marked a significant shift in the country’s conflict resolution process.[2]

Tribunals were not included in the original constitution but were added by the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 to the Indian Constitution.
  • Administrative Tribunals are addressed in Article 323-A.
  • Other tribunals are dealt with under Article 323-B.[3]

Technically, the judicial functions in India are concentrated in the Courts, which are responsible for safeguarding individual rights and promoting justice. As a result, in order to create a more efficient court system with fewer complications, judicial powers are assigned to authorities, giving importance to administrative tribunals or administrative arbitral bodies with quasi-judicial powers.

India’s legal system is separated into three levels. The subordinate courts have original jurisdiction over all cases except those that are expressly or implicitly banned. In general, high courts have appellate and revisional authority in their respective states, as well as the power to issue prerogative writs. Original jurisdiction is exercised by several High Courts. Appeals/writs against the decisions of several of the Tribunals are also heard by the High Courts. Original jurisdiction (disputations between two or more States, or between the Government of India and one or more States, or disputes that arise out of the election of the President and Vice-President of India) and advisory jurisdiction (disputations arising out of the voting of the President and Vice-President of India) have been granted on the Supreme Court by Article 131, where the President of India may seek the Court’s advice on a specific factual or legal problem of public concern.

It has appellate authority over orders issued by High Courts, Tribunals, or Appellate Tribunals formed under various Statutes and can issue prerogative writs under Article 32 of the Constitution. Special Leave Petitions under Article 136 on serious questions of law or problems of great public significance may also be considered by the Court.

Following are the names of the Tribunal present in India

Among tribunals are the  Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT), Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT),  Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), National Green Tribunal (NGT), and Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), among others.[4]

Tribunal Procedure and Powers

  1. A Tribunal shall never be confined by the procedure prescribed in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), but shall be guided either by principles of natural justice and shall have such authority to regulate its very own procedure, which would include determining whether to hold its inquiry in public or in private, issue to the other provisions of this Act as well as any rules made by the Central Government.
  2. A tribunal must evaluate every application brought to it as quickly as practicable, and most applications are determined after a review of records and written statements, as well as after hearing any oral arguments presented.
  3. During reviewing a complaint, a Tribunal shall have the very same powers as a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), for the goal of fulfilling its obligations under this Act.

Reason behind forming Tribunals

The main reason behind forming tribunals is because Domestic tribunals and other Tribunals have been constituted under various legislation to deal with the situation that arose as a consequence of the pending cases in various courts, hence referred to the Tribunals. In legal terms, a ‘tribunal’ is distinct from a domestic tribunal. The term “domestic tribunal” refers to administrative entities that use investigative and adjudicatory powers to oversee professional conduct and enforce discipline among members. Tribunals, on the other hand, are quasi-judicial entities designed to decide disputes relating to specific topics, and they exercise their authority in accordance with the statute that constituted them. Similarly, the Ombudsman investigates citizen complaints of problems incurred at the hands of government officials.[5]

Conclusion

Administrative law is an important aspect in controlling delegated legislation in India, and judicial review of administrative discretionary decisions is one way to govern administrative acts. Administrative law is an effective instrument for maintaining a balance between administration and law enforcement it relies on the technique and discovery of social science to examine can legislation could bring changes to governance and improve the efficacy of public organisations. The set of rules, methods and legal institutions that regulate government agencies’ execution of laws and administration of government programs is known as administrative law. It also places a heavy focus on an empirical study on the influence of the courts on agencies, since judicial review traditionally was viewed as a way of keeping administrators accountable to democratic governmental decisions.

Author: Sidharth Kumar Pathak (Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi)

References:

[1] Drishti IAS, ‘Tribunals’ (Drishti IAS November 26, 2019) <https://www.drishtiias.com/important-institutions/drishti-specials-important-institutions-national-institutions/tribunals-1> accessed January 8, 2022

[2] ‘Assessment of Statutory Frameworks of Tribunals in India’ <https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report272.pdf> accessed January 8, 2022

[3] Supra Note 1

[4] Sharma N, ‘Centre Notifies New Rules for Appointment to 14 Tribunals’ (India Today September 16, 2021) <https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/sc-centre-new-rules-appointment-tribunals-1853657-2021-09-16> accessed January 8, 2022

[5] “Assessment of Statutory Frameworks of Tribunals in India” <https://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report272.pdf> accessed January 8, 2022

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