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All you need to know about administrative tribunals

November 28, 2021
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This article is written by Harmanjot Kaur Kang and the article is edited by Khushi Sharma (Trainee Associate, Blog iPleaders).

Administrative tribunals

It is the name given to the ‘administrative exercise of the judicial functions. It is the term synonymously used with the administrative sections and decision making. It is the name given to various ways of deciding the dispute outside the ordinary courts. It is constitutional, though it is a negation of the principle of separation of powers. It is the participation or the involvement of the executive of the government (administrative authorities) in the judicial functions. Through the instrumentality of the administrative adjudication, administrative agencies can pass the authoritative and appealable decisions. This adjudicatory function is expired in a variety of ways. However, the most popular mode of adjudication is through tribunals.

Generally, a tribunal is any ‘person’ or ‘institution’. Authority to judge, adjudicate and determine claims or disputes whether or not have tribunals n it. Tribunals can be defined as ‘judgement seats’ or ‘court of justice’ or ‘board or committee’ formed to adjudicate on the claim of a particular kind. Tribunal is not originally a part of the constitution but they were introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. Administrative tribunals are quasi-judicial authorities that are established under an Act of the Parliament or of State Regulations which is changed with the duty to discharge, adjudicatory functions. So, they are bodies other than courts that perform the adjudicatory functions. 

How were tribunals designated under Indian Law?

By the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 a new part XIV (14-A) was included in the constitution and this part is entitled to as ‘Tribunals’ and consists of two articles 323A and 323B. Article 323A empowers for the establishment of the Administrative Tribunal and following the Articles of the Indian Constitution, the Parliament has passed Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985. 

This Act empowers the Central Government to establish one central ‘Administrative Tribunal’ (CAT) and the ‘State Administrative Tribunal’. Article 323B deals with the Tribunals of the other matters. 

Types of the tribunals as per the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)

It has the jurisdiction to deal with the service matters about the employees of Central Government, any Union Territory, Local Government or any other Central Government, corporate-owned or controlled by the Central Government. 

State Administrative Tribunals (SAT)

These tribunals can be established by the Central Government and the Parliament. Similarly, we see the State Legislature under Article 323 B for various matters like levy, assessment, collection and enforcement of any tax matters connected with the land reforms covered under Article 31 A.

Joint Administrative Tribunals (JAT)

This can be established on the request of two or more states collectively, which exercise administrative control over two or more states. For Instance, there are various tribunals such as:

Armed Force Tribunal (AFT)

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)

National Green Tribunal (NGT)

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT)

Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT)

Water Dispute Tribunal

Characteristics of administrative tribunals

They are of statutory origin and so must be created by a statute or by the Parliament or State Legislation. They are quasi-judicial in nature. This means they have features of a court but not all. The administrative Tribunal is bound to act judicially and follow the principles of Natural Justice. We see various procedural matters, i.e., administrative tribunals have the powers related to the summoning of the witness, administering the oath, to compel production of the documents.

It is not bound to the strict rules of the evidence law and the procedure prescribed by the civil procedure code. They are independent and are not subject to any administrative interference in the discharge of their judicial functions and quasi-judicial functions. The writ of certiorari and prohibition are available against the decisions of the administrative tribunals. It has some toppings of the court and is required to act openly, fairly and impartially. 

Necessity and reasons for the growth of administrative tribunals

The main purpose of the introduction of this Act was:

Necessity

Application of the Act

Section 2 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, Act applies to all central government employees. 

Exceptions

Composition of tribunals and the bench

Section 4 defines the tribunal to have the following organs:

Chairman: There would be a chairman who would be administrating the whole matters.

Vice-Chairman: This would be the one who would be assisting the chairman.

Judicial Minister: This would be having the qualifications similar to the judicial officer.

Technical Expert: This would be looking into the areas related to the respective technical area. 

Administrative Members: This would help in the governance system.

Every bench must include at least one judicial and administrative member. 

Term of office

Section 8 talks about such provisions. The person can work for a period of five years. However, we see that the Chairman would retire at the age of 65 years. Similarly, other members would retire at the age of 62 years of age.

Advantages of administrative tribunals

Limitations of administrative tribunals

Disadvantages of administrative tribunals

Challenges faced by administrative tribunals

Differences between courts and tribunals

However, a major drawback lies here that since there is no formal procedure prescribed here there can be arbitrariness. However, on the other side of the coin, we see that there is the good side which shows that even an application with a simple format can be treated as a petition. 

Since there is a system of ‘welfare state’ in India and the people are concerned about getting their rights to be duly acknowledged, we see that the idea of administrative tribunals are good as the courts are very overburdened these days. We can be thankful to tribunals for their technical expertise in the field and speedy delivery of justice which overweighs its cons.

Conclusion

From the above discussion, we see that though administrative law is still in its infancy stage. However, with time, we see that there are various instances where there are instances of how the evolving decisions have helped in the formation of a strong judicial system in our country. Also, we see specialised systems like that of the ‘National Green Tribunal’ are there. Thus, we see that there is a liberal overview of the system of governance and is more people-centric in nature. 


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