Tribunals in India are specialised courts (other than formal judiciary), established under statute for dealing with disputes relating to particular kind of law. Unlike regular courts therefore, a tribunal will only hear cases it specializes in.
For example, National Green Tribunal (NGT) hears the cases relating to environmental issues.
In general sense, the ‘tribunals’ are not courts of normal jurisdiction, but they have very specific and predefined work area.
In India tribunals were added in the Constitution by Constitution 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 as Part XIV–A, which has only two articles viz. 323–A and 323–B.
–> While Article 323–A deals with Administrative Tribunals;
–> Article 323–B deals with tribunals for other matters.
The basic objective of administrative tribunals is to take out of the purview of the regular courts of law certain matters of dispute between the citizen and government agencies and make the judicial process quick and less expensive.
Importance of Tribunals:
–> Tribunals bring expertise and speed to dispute resolution. The tribunals offer the first opportunity of appeal against orders by sectoral regulators.
–> The judiciary in India is already over–burdened, tribunals with their domain expertise helps to reduce the burden of judiciary.
–> Some tribunals like the Company Law Board, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and the NGT have been doing good work and their disposal rates are quite high. “NGT’s orders in particular have had the biggest impact in recent times. For example,
- Its direction to not renew the registration of vehicles older than 15 years and the removal of diesel vehicles older than 10 years has had a huge impact.
- Even its order restraining sand mining has curbed the menace of illegal sand mining to some extent.
Issues faced by Tribunals:
–> Tribunals are suffering from lack of human and financial resources, due to this many tribunals became dysfunctional.
–> The Tribunals in their present form do not inspire confidence of stakeholders and end up as post–retirement sinecures or a case of ‘dangling carrots’ rather than the noble aim of rendering justice in the form of public service to the community.
–> Last year Parliamentary committee raised the concerns over sad state of affairs of tribunals.
Suggested Reforms to restore public faith:
–> The government must provide human and financial resources for tribunals to function effectively.
–> All tribunals should be made multi–member body and should include a sitting or retired judge of the Supreme Court or a high court with domain experts on these tribunals.
–> Members of Tribunals should be provided the best possible facilities and members should be given the security of tenure but without the system of reappointment.
–> Government should make legislation to make regulators accountable to Parliament, to enable them to function independently.
–> Since “reduction of burden” on Courts and “quicker dispensation of justice” was ostensibly the aim of Tribunalisation, a stringent provision for time–bound redressal must be incorporated in all statutes dealing with Tribunals.
–> There should be structured interactions and periodic reporting with Parliament to review regulatory actions and raise investor comfort.
–> The correct function of Tribunals should remain to supplement and filter out cases for the superior judiciary and not to replace it.
In India tribunals are established to reduce the burden of formal judiciary and to bring expertise and speed to dispute resolution. Though to some extent tribunals fulfilled their desired objectives, but these tribunals are suffering from many issues.
Hence there is an urgent need to reform these institutions to realise the desired objectives.