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Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    25th Aug, 2021

Context

Lok Sabha recently passed the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 to dissolve at least eight courts.

The Bill

  • The Bill replaces the Rationalization and Conditions of Service Ordinance, 2021, which was repealed by the High Court.
  • Eight courts were disbanded, which served as the bodies of appeals to hear disputes under various conditions, and
  • Appeal to existing tribunals such as a civil court or a High Court
  • Chairpersons and Members of the Judiciary are terminated by termination of office, with compensation equal to 3 months' salary and benefits for their early termination.

Additional information

1. What are tribunals?

  • The Tribunal is a quasi-judicial institution set up to deal with issues such as resolving administrative or tax-related disputes. It performs many functions such as resolving disputes, determining rights between opposing parties, making administrative decisions, reviewing existing decisions to govern and so on.

2. Constitutional Provisions:

  • They were not part of the Constitution at first.
  • Amendment Act 42 introduces these provisions in accordance with the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee.
  • The amendment introduces Part XIV-A in the Constitution, which deals with ‘courts’ and contains two articles:
    • Article 323A deals with administrative courts. These are judicial institutions that resolve disputes related to employment and the conditions of service of public servants.
    • Article 323B deals with the courts of other jurisdictions such as Tax, industrial and labour, Foreign Exchange, Import and Export, Land Reform, Food, Urban Roofing, Elections in Parliament and State Legislatures, Employment and Employment Rights.

Key Provisions of the bill

  • Dissolution of Existing Bodies: The Bill seeks to eliminate certain appeal bodies and transfer their functions to other existing judicial bodies. For example, disputes heard by the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal will be resolved by the Supreme Court.
  • Consolidation of Existing Bodies: The Finance Act, 2017 includes court-based courts. For example, the Competition Appellate Tribunal is affiliated with the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.
  • Candidate Selection Committees: The Chairperson and Members of the Courts will be elected by the central government on the recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Selection Committee. The Committee will consist of:
    • The Chief Justice of India, or the Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him, as Chairperson (by casting vote).
    • Two secretaries nominated by central governments.
    • The incumbent Chairperson, or a retired High Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of the High Court, and
    • Secretary of the Department under which the Tribunal is located (excluding the right to vote).
  • State Administrative Courts: Will have separate search electoral committees and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the country concerned, such as the Chairperson (by a casting vote).
  • Eligibility and Term of Office: The Bill provides for a term of four years (subject to a maximum of 70 years for the Chairperson, and a maximum of 67 years for members).
    • In addition, it specifies a minimum age requirement of 50 years for the appointment of a chairperson or member.
  • Removal of Councillors: It states that the central government, on the recommendation of the Select Committee of Investigators, removes the Chairperson or Member.

What was the Court's decision and what are the key issues with the Bill?

    • Supreme Court in the case of Madras Bar Association v. The Union of India has set a minimum requirement for a minimum of 50 years of office and membership and defines a term of four years.
    • It said such conditions violate the principles of separation of powers, freedom of law, law and Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Problems associated to it:

  • The Bill attempted to reverse the decision of the High Court in terms of the following provisions:
  • The minimum requirement for 50 years still finds its place in the Bill.
  • The term of office of the Chairperson and members of the court is four years.
  • The two-word recommendation for each post is the Search-cum-Selection Committee and requires a better government decision within three months.

Issues Raised by Supreme Court

  • Recently, the Supreme Court of India (SC) has challenged the government to produce material showing its reasons for introducing the Tribunal Reforms Bill of 2021.
    • Unconstitutional Violations: There was no discussion of the bill, and the government re-enacted the same principles as those overturned by the Court in the case of the Madras Bar Association (2021).This is similar to the "unconstitutional repeal of the law" of the judgment passed by SC.
    • Repeated Violations of SC Orders: The Center does not follow repeated instructions issued by the Court to ensure the proper functioning of the Courts.The provisions of the Act relating to the conditions of service and the appointment of Councilors and the Chairperson have been overturned by the High Court.
    • Security of Tenure: The Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021 prohibits the appointment of persons to the courts of persons under the age of 50 years. It undermines the length / security of hiring.
    • It undermines the separation of powers: This bill allows the Central Government to decide on recommendations made by the Electoral Committee, preferably within three months from the date of such recommendation. Section 3 (7) of the bill authorizes the recommendation of a two-word panel by the search-cum selection committee in the Central Government, violating the principles of separation of powers and legal independence.
    • Vacancies in Courts: India now has 16 courts including the National Green Tribunal, the Armed Forces Appellate Tribunal, and the Debt Recovery Tribunal and, among other things, suffers from disability.The presence of a large number of vacancies for Members and Chairpersons and excessive delays due to their filling have led to the weakening of the courts.
    • Damage to the Decision-Making Process: These cases will be referred to the higher courts or commercial courts as soon as possible.
    • Lack of expertise in ordinary courts can disrupt the decision-making process.
      • For example, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) only heard decisions that contradicted the decisions of the review board, which requires expertise in the arts and cinemas.
      • In addition, the dissolution of certain courts and the bodies of appeals, and the transfer of their functions to the Supreme Court can be criticized for the fact that the Indian courts are already heavily burdened with their existing cases.
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