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This article is written by Darshit Vora, from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies. The article provides an informative detail about the administrative tribunal. 


Administrative law determines the power which the government can exercise. These are rules which are given in a statue or implied. A tribunal is a body formed by the government to deal with various sets of matters. According to the Supreme Court, tribunal refers to an adjudicating body that decides controversies between parties, exercises judicial powers distinguished purely from judicial functions and possesses trapping of a court. The administrative tribunal is a body which is a mixture of both executive and the judiciary deals with the matters of public administration and pronounces decisions by applying suitable laws. It is a body that works in a tangle with the court to deal with issues on various matters to dispose of them expeditiously and fairly. 

To know more about the Administrative Tribunals in brief, please refer to the video below:

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Tests laid down to determine whether a body is an administrative tribunal or not

These tests were laid down in Sagar mills vs Lakshmi Chand (1962) these tests are as follows:

  • The body should have the power of adjudication from the statue. 
  • The body should be administrative interferences.
  • The procedure followed by the body should be lenient as compared to the court.
  • The body should have the power to summon, compel the production of documents, and administrative oath. 

If a body performs the following function to resolve disputes then it can be called an administrative tribunal. 

Need for setting up an administrative tribunal

  • There was a pile-up of cases in the court, the cases to judges ratio were significant, there was a lacuna from filing a case to delivering a judgment. 
  • Formal Courts took years and years to deliver a single judgment therefore there was a need to establish an alternate tool that will dispose of cases expeditiously and effectively in a cost-effective way. 
  • Generally, judges don’t have technical knowledge on administrative matters therefore experts are required. 
  • Set up a separate forum for disputes between government agencies and the citizens. 

Establishment of the arbitral tribunal  

After independence, administrative adjudications gained more importance and were considered as an effective tool to resolve issues. The Court should not be the only way to get justice. The concept of the administrative tribunal was the concept first introduced in the Law Commission XIV report in the year 1958 which suggested the formation of an administrative tribunal and it should operate within a legal and procedural framework and should abide by the principles of natural justice. 

The Administrative Reform Commission was set up to ascertain facts, examine problems, and suggest solutions. They advised in setting up administrative tribunals in a few areas.  In report 1 those areas include civil service, central excise, sales, and income tax. The report II was submitted in the next year which further suggested setting up administrative tribunals in various areas like land acquisition, insurance motor vehicle accidents. 

In 1970 Wanchoo Committee was set up which suggested an income tax commission which is an alternate method to resolve income tax-related issues. It also recommended a direct tax settlement tribunal. In 1972, a High Court Arrears Committee report was set up by the government to set up an alternate tribunal to deal with the matter of the government employees. Law Commission in its 58th report mentioned that there should be an establishment of tribunals and commission litigation should be the last resort to reduce the arrears of the court. The Swaran Singh committee set up in 1976 suggested setting an administrative tribunal. It also suggested that the judgment of the tribunal should be subject to review by the Supreme Court and the High Court. In 1976, a 42nd amendment which included article 323A, and 323B in the constitution relating to setting up of tribunals on various issues. Further, parliament implemented the administrative tribunal act, 1985 which gave power to both the central and the state government to establish a tribunal.  

Global Perspective on Administrative tribunal 

United Kingdom

After the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, there was a shift from non-interventionist to a welfare state and there was a formation of tribunals. The next crucial step that was taken was in 1873 when a Railway Commission was set up to deal with issues related to railways which were earlier dealt with by the court. Comprehensive machinery was ready by 1911 in England. After the Second World War, there was tremendous growth in the administrative tribunals. A Donoghue committee was set up which made certain recommendations regarding the legal representation of the tribunal, higher administrative authority and setting up of a permanent tribunal known as the council of the tribunal, etc. In Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1957 was formed. 

United States of America

The first major step in the United States that was taken in 1887 was the establishment of the Interstate commerce commission Act, 1887. To create effectiveness, power was provided to the agencies which included adjudication, private rights, etc. After the Great Depression, there was a quick proliferation of administrative tribunals. In 1939, general committee was set up to make various suggestions to improve administrative adjudication. After which the Administrative Procedure Act was passed in 1946. Recently, environmental related issues were also transferred to an administrative tribunal.

Types of administrative tribunal 

There are various types of an arbitration tribunal which are governed by either central or the state government:

  • Central Administrative tribunal: Article 323A gives the power to the central government to set up an arbitral tribunal. The main objective of setting up this tribunal is speedy disposal of matters; it consists of both administrative members as well as judicial members. Retired judges of the high court head the central administrative tribunal. To appeal against the decision of the Central Administrative Tribunal, a writ petition needs to be filed under Article 227 of the Indian Constitution. In the arbitral tribunal, judgments are passed on the principle of natural justice. 
  • Custom and Excise Revenue Appellate Tribunal: As the name suggests the tribunal is involved in matters regarding customs and excise revenue. The tribunal can also hear matters regarding the appeal made against the order designated authority in anti-dumping under Customs Tariff Act, 1975. Parliament passed an Act on CERAT. The decision passed by CERAT can be appealed directly to the Supreme Court. 
  • Election Commission: It deals with various issues relating to an election like non-disclosure of the financial status of the person, multiple votings bribing the voters, etc. The main aim of the election commission is to define and control every election happening across the country. The political parties need to show their financial status to the election commission. The decision of the election commission can be appealed to the Supreme Court. 
  • Appellate tribunal of FERA: This is a body that is established by the central government under  Section 50(1). If the person is not satisfied with the order of adjudication then it can be appealed in this tribunal. The decision can be appealed to the high court from the appellate board only based on the question of law.
  • Income tax tribunal: It is a body that is established under the Income-tax Act of 1961. The aggrieved can make an appeal against the order of commissioner income in the income tax tribunal. It deals with issues like search and seizure, disallowance and additions, interests, etc. The decision of this tribunal can be appealed to the High Court. Railway rates tribunal: It is a tribunal body dealing with railway issues like unfair charges on the ticket, preferential treatment to a particular customer.  This body came into existence after the passage of the Indian Railway Act, 1989. The decision of the court can be appalled in the Supreme Court. 
  • Industrial Tribunal: It came into existence after the passage of the Industrial disputes act, 1947. It deals with various issues like non-payment of workers, violation of labor laws, etc. The decision of this court can be appealed to the Supreme Court. 
  • Armed Force Tribunal: This body was established after the armed force tribunal Act, 2007. The tribunal body has its principal body in Delhi Retired High Court Judges. Members of the Armed forces who have held the rank of major for not less than three years, a person who has been a judge advocate general for not less that one year is eligible for the post of the administrative member. The decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • National Green Tribunal: National Green Tribunal Act, (1995) and National Environment Appellate, Act of 1997. These bodies were set up to dispose of increasing environmental cases. National green tribunal Act, 2010 led to the establishment of the tribunal body with it was set up with an aim for the conservation of the environment and natural resources. The cases were supposed to be disposed of within the stipulated time of 6 months. 

Difference between a Tribunal and a Court



Tribunal is a body that came into existence after the passing of the statue and possesses judicial power. 

A court is a traditional judicial system where the power is derived from the state. 

The tribunal doesn’t have a separate existence; it is controlled by the government. 

The court has an independent existence. 

Judgment given by the tribunal is in the form of an award

Judgment given by the court is in the form of decree, conviction, or acquittal. 

The Administrative member of the tribunal would be trained in law as well as administrative matters. 

The Judge of the Court must only be trained in matters related to law. 


There is no procedural code to be followed in the tribunal. 

Strict procedural code should be followed while dealing with cases. 

Members of the tribunal can be a part of a dispute.

Judges cannot decide their cases in a court of law. 

Tribunal deals with special cases.

The court deals with both civil as well as criminal cases. 


Constitutional Provisions related to an administrative tribunal

After the 42 amendment Act of the Indian Constitution in 1976, there were insertions of two articles in the constitution; those articles are as follows:

  • Article 323A of the Indian Constitution:: The article gives the power to the central government to establish a tribunal for matters related to recruitment, conditions of service in connection with central or any state authority, or owned and controlled by the Government.

The other Courts except the Supreme Court lose its jurisdiction in the matters prescribed under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution.  The provision also mentioned the rules, limitations that are supposed to be followed in the tribunal. 

  • Article 323B of the Indian Constitution: It gives power to both central as well as the State Government to set up a tribunal for the following offences:
  1.  Levy, collection, assessment, and enforcement of taxes. 
  2. Export and Foreign exchange issues. 
  3. Industrial and Labour disputes. 
  4. Land Reforms. 
  5. Ceiling and Urban Property. 
  6. Production, procurement distribution of various essential goods. 
  7. Rent, it’s regulation control and tenancy issues. 
  8. Election disputes. 

Article 323B is wide as compared to article 323 A and also includes dealing with criminal cases. 

  • Article 136 of the Indian Constitution: It gives the power to the Supreme Court deal with cases on the matters mentioned under Article 323 A and 323B and doesn’t provide a jurisdiction to the other Courts to try cases on such matters other than the Supreme Court. 

The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985

After almost a decade after making the constitutional amendment in 1976 the Administrative Tribunal Act was passed in 1985. This act mentions that there must be a Central Administrative Tribunal  and State Administrative Tribunal in every state or two or more states:

  • Section 2 Applicability of the Act: This act would apply to every governmental employee 
  1. Any member of armed, naval, or the air force of the Union. 
  2. An officer or the servant of the High Court.
  3. Any member appointed to a secretariat staff appointed by the house of parliament, State Legislature, or by a union territory having a legislature. 
  • Section 4 Establishment of administrative Tribunals: The central government may establish a tribunal by giving a notification. The State Government can also form their administrative tribunal after taking approval from the central government. Two or more states can enter an agreement into a joint administrative tribunal after taking the approval of the government. 
  • S.5 Composition of the tribunal: Every bench shall consist of judicial or administrative members, and a chairman. It has its principal bench in New Delhi. 
  • S.6 Qualifications for chairman, Vice Chairman, and other members: 

Administrative member: 

  • Secretary post for not less than 2 years or equivalent post in either central 
  • At the state government pay scale not less than an additional secretary for not less than 2 years. 
  • The person who was at the position of the joint secretary for not less than 5 years.

Judicial Member: 

  • The person is qualified to be the Judge of the High Court for not less than 2 years.
  •  He/ she who has/her held the post of secretary at the department of legal affairs. 


  • The person should have been a high court judge. 
  • he has been the vice-chairman for not less than five years. 
  • He was in the post of secretary.
  • Was in other post carrying the same pay scale as that of the secretary. 

Vice-Chairman: A person has been a judge of the High for the period not less than 2 years OR Has been Secretary for the period not less than 2 years. OR Has been Additional Secretary or a period not less than 5 Years.

  • Section 8 Term of office: The chairman and the members can hold the office for not more than 5 years or 65 years whichever comes earlier.  
  • Section 9 Resignation and Removal of office;  The chairman of the member cannot be removed from the office unless and until the order is made by the president on the ground of misbehavior or incapacity the person shall be given the reasonable opportunity to defend himself. 
  • Section 14 Jurisdiction of Central Administrative tribunal: Matter relating to recruiting for all-India service and civil post or in the post of defence service. It is necessary that the authority should be within the territory of India should be controlled by the government or by society or corporation or owned and controlled by the government. 
  • Section 15 Jurisdiction of State Administrative Tribunal: Matters relating to recruiting for all-India service and civil post or in the post of defence service. The authority must be within the state. The authority can be corporations or society, controlled by the state government or owned or controlled by t6he state government. 
  • Section 21 Limitations: The limitations of the administrative tribunal are as follows:

The application should be made within one year if that period expires the tribunal will still accept it if the person mentions sufficient reason for not filing the case within three years. 

  1.  The administrative tribunal not bound by civil procedural Code.
  2. The tribunal shall decide their procedures for expeditiously disposing of the cases.  
  3. The tribunal has various powers like:
  • Summoning a person.
  • Receiving the production of the document.
  • Asking for public records. 
  • Reviewing the decisions. 
  • Setting aside the ex-parte order. 
  • Any other matter prescribed by the central government. 
  • Receiving affidavits. 

Relevant Judgements

S.P. Sampath Kumar vs Union of India(1986)

Facts: In this case, the constitutional Validity of the Administrative tribunal act was challenged in the Supreme Court vas because it violates the concept of Judicial review. 

Judgment: The five-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that the act is valid except the S. 6(1)  which provided unrestricted power to the government to elect vice chairman, chairman, and other members of the tribunal the five years was not held valid by the court. This section of the Act was held unconstitutional.

Union of India vs R Gandhi (2010)  

Facts: In this case, constitutionality of NCLT and NCLAT was challenged in the Supreme Court on various grounds like: 

  • Transfer of jurisdiction from the High Court to the tribunal is violative of rule of law principle.  
  • Provision of 1B and 1C is unconstitutional to the constitutional provision, separation of power. 

Judgment: The Court held that Parliament has the power to make tribunals and tribunals don’t violate the principle of rule of law, separation of power. It instead reduces the burden from the courts. It held that NCLT and NCLAT tribunals are valid by law.   

Sambamurthy vs State of Andhra Pradesh 

Facts: In this case, the constitutionality of Article 371D was challenged in the court the claim was that the article is unconstitutional on the ground that it gave the power to the state government to modify the order of the administrative tribunal.

Judgment: The Court considering the Administrative Tribunal as a substitute of the High Court held the law unconstitutional and was thus struck down. 

L Chandra Shekhar vs Union of India (1997) 

Facts: In this case, the Supreme Court in this case dealt with various issues like whether Article 323A and 323 B gives the power to the Union or state to exclude all the courts other than the Supreme Court, Whether the tribunal is acting as an effective substitute of the High court. 

Judgment: The Supreme Court held that the power of Judicial review is available to the higher Judiciary. The lower judiciary cannot serve as an effective substitute for the effective substitutes of the higher judiciary. It can act as a supplement to the higher judiciary. 

Appeals can be made to the Supreme Court

The decision of the Administrative Tribunal can be appealed to the Supreme Court on the following grounds:

  • The error of law. 
  • Order by the tribunal is mala fide or arbitrary. 
  • The order of the tribunal would lead to injustice. 
  • The Tribunal was perverse. 
  • The tribunal pronounced the order out of the scope of jurisdiction.

Advantages of Administrative Tribunal

There are various advantages of administrative tribunals as compared to the formal court system. 

  • Flexible: The tribunal doesn’t follow rigid procedures to pronounce the judgment. It is based on pronouncing decisions on the principles of natural justice which makes it easy for the parties to facilitate justice.  
  • Adequate approach: In the tribunal, some members have specialized knowledge on a variety of matters like taxes, employment rules, etc. There can be instances in the courts where the judge doesn’t know various matters which he deals with. 
  • Speedy and effective remedy: There are nearly about 25 million block cases. It will take about 20 years to dispose of all the cases therefore, to deal with the administrative matters various tribunals were established. It is not necessary to go to the formal courts in matters which are administrative. It not only saves time but also deals with the cases effectively. 
  • Economical Solution:  It is cheaper and an effective way to get justice where a person doesn’t have to pay huge litigation costs. There are certain issues dealt with by the administrative tribunal where people don’t even have to pay the stamp charges. 
  • Relief to Courts: When there is an effective way to resolve disputes swiftly and efficiently therefore, it encourages people to resolve disputes through the tribunal system and thus reducing the burden from the courts. 

Disadvantages of administrative tribunal 

Though administrative tribunals play a critical role in quickly and effectively disposing of the numerous there exist various problems some of them are as follows

  • Negates rule of law: The rule of law includes rule of law, equality before the law, the supremacy of the existing law, and the procedure of law. In Administrative tribunals, there are separate laws made which are against the rule of law. 
  • Violation of natural justice: As because there are no rigid and strict procedures that increase the probability that there would be a violation of the principle of natural justice. 
  • No Uniform code: Administrative tribunal doesn’t have a particular uniform code that it follows like courts do while dealing with civil or criminal cases. 
  • Difficult to predict future decisions: Due to lack of precedent in administrative cases because most of the cases are resolved through the way of summary trial which makes it difficult to predict future judgments. 


  • Reforms should be made in the prevalent structure of the administrative tribunal for the delivery of justice. 
  • Measures should be taken to improve the technological and infrastructural development of the tribunals to create more efficiency. 
  • More autonomy should be provided to the administrative tribunal by the government. 


The main aim of going to the court is to dispose of cases effectively and efficiently. Those are functions that are performed by the administrative tribunal. It supplements the original courts. The concept of Administrative tribunal has flourished in India due to various reasons like lacuna of cases, expensive, incompetent authority. It also becomes difficult to appeal against the decision of the tribunal Court which makes it easy to dispose of cases. Though there are certain changes required in the currently existing tribunal system to improve and satisfy the victims.  







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