It has been published by Rachit Garg.
Table of Contents
The three elements of judicial review in India are judicial review of administrative activities, judicial review of legislative activities, and judicial review of judicial decisions. The primary problem with the judicial system is the length of time it takes to conclude trials, which causes a backlog of a large number of cases that ultimately burden the Court/ and authorities. The establishment of a tribunal for a specific purpose is recommended by various commissions and reform committees as a way to integrate that mechanism with the judiciary.
The Law Commission recommended in 1958 that tribunals be set up, which consist of judicial and administrative members, to handle disputes related to service matters. Thereafter, the Administrative Reform Commission in 1969 recommended that a Civil Service Tribunal be established to handle the matter for state and federal public officials. The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976, which took into consideration and introduced Part XIV-A through Article 46 of the Constitution and included Article 323A and Article 323B providing for the establishment of tribunals dealing with matters related to administrative action and other problems, was passed by the Parliament.
The constitutionality of Articles 323A and 323B was largely disputed because they were analysed against the spirit of the Constitution. The introduction of Articles 323A and 323B presumes that they exclude the jurisdiction of the High Court as provided in Articles 226/ 227 and also the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as provided in Article 32 of the Constitution.
The question that arises is whether the judicial oversight vested in the High Court in Articles 226/ 227 of the Constitution and the Supreme Court in Article 32 form part of the fundamental structure of the Constitution. The doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution has been elaborated and deliberated in detail in many of the similar rulings in the case of Kesavananda Bharati’s. A thorough discussion or analysis of the case of L. Chandra Kumar will help to clarify the position of the Administrative Tribunal/ Court with respect to judicial oversights and the basic structure of the Constitution.
Part IVA-A of the Constitution of India introduces two articles that deal with and are entitled to tribunals, as are detailed below:
- Article 323-A deals with administrative tribunals.
- Article 323-B deals with the Tribunals for other matters.
The details of the above-mentioned articles are fully explained hereunder.
Article 323 A- Establishment of an administrative tribunal for service matters:
In order to adjudicate disputes, cases, and complaints involving the centre, the cantons, the cooperative bodies, the municipal bodies, and other public authorities, the Parliament established an administrative tribunal in Article 323A. Simply put, the Parliament has granted the administrative tribunal the power to hear cases and decide disputes involving public service issues from all types of tribunals.
The law introduces provisions that deal not only with jurisdiction but also with the authority and power exercised by tribunals, the procedures to be followed, and the exclusion of the jurisdiction of all courts save for the authority granted to the Supreme Court of India as provided in Article 136 of the Indian Constitution.
Article 323 B- Establishment of an administrative tribunal for matters other than service matters:
The introduction of Article 323B of the Constitution empowers the establishment of an administrative tribunal by the Parliament and State Legislature to deal with cases other than those covered in Article 323A. This Tribunal assesses and evaluates the cases that relate to industrial and labour disputes and complaints, import and export, foreign exchange, the right to rent and lease, ceilings for urban real estate, elections in Parliament and state legislatures, and food.
The Administrative Act 1985 was passed by the Parliament in pursuance of the power exercised as provided in Article 323A of the Constitution. It empowered the centre to establish three tribunals to execute public affairs quickly and effectively and provide justice to the public authorities. The details are as follows:
- Centre Administrative Tribunal (CAT)
- State Administrative Tribunal (SAT)
- Joint Administrative Tribunal (JAT)
|a||Centre Administrative Tribunal (CAT)||This Tribunal shall be established by the Central Government having jurisdiction to deal with the matters of obligation concerning employees of the Central Government, or of Union Territories, or of local or other form of government under the authority or control of the Government of India, or of any company owned or controlled by the Central Government.This tribunal consists of a president, a vice-president and other members.|
|b||State Administrative Tribunal (SAT)||This Tribunal is established for state employees by the Central Government upon receipt of a request to do so from any of the state governments. The President, after consultation with the Governor of the State, appointed the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Members of the Tribunal.|
|c||Joint Administrative Tribunal (JAT)||This Joint Tribunal may require two or more states to exercise the powers of the administrative tribunal over those states.The President, after consultation with the Governor of the State, appointed the Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Members of the Tribunal.|
Facts of the case
There are several applications for special leave, civil appeals, and writ petitions, which together constitute a series of questions concerning the constitutional validity that have been originated in separate decisions of different High Courts from each other and numbers of provisions of different enactments that are the subject matter of the dispute. The subject matter of the challenge is whether the establishment of Article 323A and Article 323B under Part XIVA of the Constitution of India can substitute the power of the High Court under Articles 226/ 227 in discharging the power of judicial oversight.
The Parliament enacted the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985, in view of the authority provided in Clause 1 of Article 323A of the Constitution, and accordingly, the Central Administrative Tribunal was established on November 1, 1985, which consists of five (5) benches.
However, before the establishment of Tribunal, several petitions for the order were filed before the various High Court as well as the Supreme Court, as the case may be, challenging the Constitutional validity of subclause (d) of Clause 2 of Article 323A and subclause (d) of Clause 3 of Article 323B of the Constitution of India,1950 and also relating to the Constitutional effect of the provision of the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985 as well , on the grounds that it contradict the spirit of the Constitution because it excludes the jurisdiction of the High Court as provided in Article 226/ 227 of the Constitution as well as the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as provided in the Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
Several distinctive questions of law arise, which have been grouped together and broadly classified under the three main facts;
- Whether the power vested under sub-clause (d) of Clause 2 of Article 323A to the Parliament or under sub-clause (d) of Clause 3 of Article 323B to the state legislature completely excludes the power of “all the courts” except that of the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution of India for dispute and claim under Article 323B as opposed to the judicial review vested in the High Court under Article 226/ 227 and the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
- Whether the Tribunal established in terms of Article 323A or either Article 323B of the Constitution has the authority to check the constitutional validity of a statutory provision or rule?
- Whether the Tribunal, with its current functions, should be considered an effective substitute for High Court in exercising judicial oversight If not, what changes are needed to make them align with their founding goals?
Verdict of the Court
- In accordance with the power exercised in Article 32 and Article 226/227 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the High Court have the authority to examine the legislative action. The authority provided in this article is a fundamental component of the constitutional architecture.
- Part of the inviolable fundamental framework of the Constitution is the jurisdiction granted to the High Court under Article 226/227 and to the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution. Other courts and tribunals may exercise the powers granted by Article 226/Article 227, and Article 32 of the Constitution in a complementary rather than a substitutive capacity while this jurisdiction cannot be overthrown.
- It is important to avoid taking away the High Court’s authority to exert judicial supervision over all court and tribunal decisions that are subject to their jurisdiction. This authority is a fundamental component of the Constitution. To the exclusion of High Court or Supreme Court, judicial review authority over legislative action must not be exercised by the sub-ordinate judicial system or tribunals. The Court, in its numerous decisions, held that exclusion of court as stated in Section 28 of the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985, and in other legislation specifically enacted under aegis of Article 323A and Article 323B would exclude the jurisdiction of High Court as power provided under Article 226/227 and Supreme Court as power provided under Article 32, which ultra-bored the Constitution. The Tribunal will serve as supplementary instructions to support the High Court in performing its job. However, the Tribunal cannot be treated as independent organisation, and its fundamental role is to provide support or to supervise the High Court.
- The objective for which the tribunals were established would not be served by ruling due to lack of authority to handle cases involving constitutional issues. The decision of the Tribunal will be heard by a Division Bench of the High Court, as power is vested in Article 226/227 of the Constitution, in whose territorial jurisdiction the High Court as well as the Tribunal fall.
- However, the tribunals for which they have been established will continue to function as first- instance courts in certain areas of law. Even when a situation arises where the validity of the statutory obligations is questioned (except in circumstances where the legislation that established the specific tribunal is challenged), it is not possible for the litigants to directly approach the Hon’ble High Courts. As a result, no appeal would directly lie to the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution; instead, the party who was wronged will be able to file a petition with the High Court under Article 226/227 of the Constitution, and from the Division Bench of the High Court, an appeal may be filed with the Supreme Court under Article 136 of the Constitution.
- The Administrative Tribunal members consist of mixed composition, i.e., judicial and administrative streams, and would be able to bring a variety of experiences to bear on the service matters that are brought to it for adjudication.
- Section 5(6) and Section 5(2) of the Administrative Act, 1985, must work together and be construed harmoniously as dictated by the Court, and it was determined that Section 5 (6) is lawful and constitutional. When the question regarding the interpretation of a statutory provision or rule of construction for consideration arises on a single-member bench of the Administrative Tribunal, the proviso under Section 5 (6) will apply, and the concerned member or chairman will refer the matter to a bench consisting of at least two members (out of which one must be a judicial member).
- The Law Commission needs to conduct a thorough investigation into the statutes under which tribunals are established in order to guarantee their independence, boost public confidence, and enhance the calibre of their performance. All of these tribunals must immediately fall under the supervision of a single nodal ministry that can oversee their operations until a fully autonomous body is established to handle their administration. Many of the problems with the current structure will be resolved by the establishment of a single umbrella organisation.
Critical analysis (related case discussion)
However, only a few of the overturned judgements and the related provisions are mentioned, to the extent necessary to assess the policy conflicts and lay out the specifics of the controversy. In this series of cases, more general issues are raised without addressing the specifics of each case. The Division Bench will then use the general guidelines provided in this decision to settle the disagreement pertaining to each of the specific cases.
In the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India, Dr. Ambedkar said that Article 32 is the essential article and is the heart and soul of the Constitution. The following cases demonstrate the importance of “Judicial Authority and Judicial Review” as one of the fundamental features of the Constitution and the power of the Constitutional Court in India in respect of judicial review of legislative actions.
In the case of Kesavananda Bharati, it was decided that even though the Parliament has been given the power to amend the Constitution under Article 368 of the Constitution, that power cannot be used to undermine the Constitution’s core values or dismantle its structural foundation. The Court’s ability to exercise judicial review does not just limit itself to determining whether the Central or State Legislatures acted within the benchmark of the legislative list designated for them. It also allows the Court to address the issue of whether the laws are made in accordance with and not in violation of the Constitution. The power of judicial oversight must also ensure that protection of such rights is upheld as long as some fundamental rights exist and are protected by the Constitution.
In S.P. Sampath Kumar vs. Union of India and Ors. (1987), in this case, the tribunal must follow the Court’s instructions in order to function in accordance with constitutionally sound principles. In its final decision, the Court ruled that judicial oversight is a fundamental part of the Constitution and that the authority should be transferred from the High Court to a different institutional mechanism in order to uphold the legality of Section 28 of the Act without violating the fundamental framework. This is true even if it cannot be demonstrated that the different institutional mechanism is a true and efficient replacement for the High Court.
The creation of the Administrative Tribunals not only helped to reduce the volume of cases, but it also gave judges more time to handle them quickly and address complaints. The fundamental foundation of the Indian Constitution could not be compromised following the 1973 verdict of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973), and any breach of laws, actions, or regulations will be regarded as null or void. The decision should be susceptible to court review if the government establishes a new Quasi-Judicial entity to accelerate justice in specific instances and lessen the burden on the High Court and the Supreme Court.
In this case, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier stance on the Tribunals and ruled that judicial review is a fundamental, integral, and necessary aspect of the Constitution. The power of the High Courts’ and the Supreme Courts under Article 226/227 and Article 32 of the Constitution cannot be repealed by the constitutional provisions. In light of the aforementioned, the courts and tribunals may play an additional role in exercising the rights granted under Article 226/227 and Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
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