The 24th Constitution Amendment Act, 1976 has added the two new articles in the Indian Constitution i.e. Article 323-A & 323-B. Under the exercise of the powers conferred by Article 323-A, the Parliament has enacted Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985 which empowers the Central Government to establish Administrative Tribunals for solving the disputes related to recruitment and conditions of government service under the Union and State governments.
Such a law provides for the establishment of a tribunal for the Union and one for each state or for two or more states. It also makes provision for- (1) The jurisdiction, power and authority including power to punish for contempt to be exercised by the tribunals; (2) the exclusion of jurisdiction of al Courts except the jurisdiction of Supreme Court under Article 136; (3) the transfer of all pending cases before any Court or authority to be transferred to the tribunal; (4) repeal or amend any order made by the President under Article 371-D (3).
Article 323-B deals with the creations of Tribunals for solving the disputes, offences & complaints related to tax and service matters, exports-imports, industrial conflicts, supply of essential commodities, Parliaments & State Legislatures election disputes, land reforms law enacted under Article 31-A, offences against laws w.r.t. matters specified in sub-clauses (a) – (h) and fees related matters and rent, its control, tendency and regulation issues including the rights, title and interest of landlords & talents.
These tribunals are constituted specifically to deals with the service matters of civil servants. Administrative Tribunals are substitute to the High Courts. These tribunals are established with the aim to stop or avoid the regular approach of civil servants. The functions of Tribunals are different from the courts but they tend the same objective as that of courts to deliver justice.
In Union of India v. deep Chand Pandey, 1 the question was raised whether the Central Administrative Tribunal has jurisdiction to decide the claims of respondents who were engaged only on a casual basis in the office of the Central Railway, whose services were strongly terminated. The Court held that the scope of Article 323-A is very wide and after the enactment of the Act in 1985 this power has been exercised in almost full measure. Section 14 & Section 3 (q) of the Act indicates that the Act has a wide area. The remedy of the respondents was before the Tribunal and the High Court which jurisdiction has been taken.
The Administrative Tribunals are adjudicatory bodies (except ordinary courts of law) constituted by the State and entrusted with judicial and quasi-judicial functions as distinguished from administrative or executive functions. 2 Following the Indian judiciary, tribunals are the bodies must maintain procedural safeguards while arriving at their decisions and observe principles of natural justice-their opinions were substantiated by the 14th Law Commission Report. 3
The tribunals were established to provide a speedy, cheap and decentralized determination of disputes arising from various welfare legislation and to address specific cases come out of new socio-economic Legislations. 4 The word ‘tribunal’ has been derived from the Latin term tribunus which means “a raised platform with the seat of a judge, who elected by the pleas of protect their interests”. 5
According to Oxford Dictionary, the tribunal means ‘Judgment Seat’ or ‘Court of Justice’. 6 According to Oxford Companion of law “any person or body of persons having to judge, adjudicate on or determine claims or disputes. 7
There is no specific definition of Administrative Tribunal is given in the Constitution but Article 136 & 227 of the Constitution provides the term ‘tribunal’ only. The Supreme Court has provided his views by referring some case laws. In Durga Shankar Mehtha v. Raghuraj Singh, 8 the Supreme Court expressed that the term ‘Tribunal’ used in Article 136 does not mean the same thing as ‘Court’ but includes within its ambit, all adjudicating bodies provides that they are constituted by the State and invested with judicial as distinguished from administrative or executive functions.
In Bharat Bank Ltd. v. Employees, 9 the Supreme Court observed that though tribunals are clad in many of the trappings of Court and though they exercise quasi-judicial functions, they are not full-fledged court. In Associated Cement Companies Ltd. v. P.N. Sharma, 10 the Supreme concluded that a tribunal is an adjudicating body to decide controversies between the two parties and exercises judicial powers as distinguished from purely administrative functions and the possesses some of the trappings of a court, but not all.
Appeal in Supreme Court under Article 136
Under Article 136 an aggrieved party can approach the Supreme Court directly. The Supreme Court has given the guidelines for granting the SLP from the decision of the tribunals.
Applicability of the Act
The Act applies to all the employees of the Central Government except-
- the members of military, air, naval or any other armed forces of the Union;
- any servant or officer of the Supreme Court and High Court;
- a person appointed to the Secretariat of either House of Parliament defined under Section 2 of the Act.
Composition of the tribunals and bench
Every tribunal shall have a Chairman and the number of Vice-Chairman and Administrative members will be appointed by the Central government as per the need. The Chairman has the power to transfer any member from one bench to another. Every bench shall have one Judicial Member and one Administrative Member. The Chairman can constitute a single bench for certain cases.
Qualification, term and removal of members
- A person to be appointed as Chairman must fulfil the certain conditions (a) or has for two years held the office of Vice-President or has held the post of Secretary to the Government of India for two years or holding some other post with similar scale of pay of Secretary.
- A person to be appointed as Vice-Chairman must fulfil the certain measures: (a) he is or has been a Judge of a High Court; (b) has held the post of Secretary to the Government of India for two years or holding some other post with similar scale of pay of Secretary under the Central or State government; (c) has held the post of Additional Secretary to the Government of India for 5 years or any other post carrying the same pay scale of Additional-Secretary.
- A person to be appointed as Judicial Member must (a) be or have been a Judge of High Court, or (b) have been a member of Indian Legal Service and has held a post in Grade I of the Service for at least 3 years.
- A person to be appointed as an Administrative Member must (a) have held the post of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India or other equivalent post for 2 years or (b) have held the post of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India or other equivalent post, (c) have sufficient administrative experience as mentioned under Section 6 of the Act.
- The Chairman, Vice-Chairman and other members are appointed by the President whereas the Judicial Members are appointed by the President but in consultation with Chief Justice of India. The Chairman and other members for a State Tribunal is appointed by the President but with consultation with the Governor of the State concerned.
The tenure of a Chairman and Vice-Chairman or other members is of 5 years or until the Chairman and Vice-Chairman attains the age of 65 years and other members attains the age of 62 years as defined under Section 8 of the Act.
The Chairman and other members can resign from his posting by writing to the President and they can also be removed by the President on the grounds of proved misbehaviour and incapacity. The members have to right to get the information about the charges on them and a reasonable opportunity of hearing is provided.
Jurisdiction of the Central Tribunal
The Central Tribunal can exercise all the powers, jurisdiction and authority exercisable immediately before that day by all courts except the Supreme Court in relation to the following matters:
- Recruitment to any All India Service or civil service of the Union or a civil post under the Union or civilian employees of defence services;
- All services of any local or other authority within the territory of India or under the control of the Indian Government or any corporation or society owned or controlled by the government;
- All matters of services of such persons whose service have been placed by the State Government or any local or other authority or any corporation at the disposal of the Central Government.
Tribunal is not a substitute for High Court
The tribunals empowered to adjudicate disputes and entertain complaints related to service matters. All other courts can entertain these cases excluding Supreme Court. Therefore, tribunals enjoy the same status as a High Court. But a tribunal does not have the power to issue the writ as a High Court can issue.
The Supreme Court in S.P. Sampath Kumar’scase, 11 declared that the tribunal is the substitute of the High Court and is entitled to exercise the power thereof. The tribunals are a part of the jurisdiction of the High Court i.e., an appeal relating to service matters cannot lie within the High Court against the order or judgment and as before the Supreme Court. However, Supreme Court can entertain an appeal in the exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 136. Hence, the tribunal’s decision is made appealable within the tribunal itself before a large bench as an ordinary employee cannot be accepted to afford the cost of litigation in the Supreme Court, which sometimes results in denial of his right to seek justice.
The Court also held that the Section 6 (1) (c) of the Act is unconstitutional as it provides unfettered power to appoint the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Administrative members of the Tribunal.
But in L. Chandrakumar v/s Union of Indiacase, 12 the Supreme Court overruled its earlier judgment and held that power of judiciary vested in the Supreme Court and High courts, is the part of the basic structure of the Constitution and could not be taken away. Now, the Tribunals are allowed to function as same as Courts of first instance subject to the jurisdiction of High Courts. This has downgraded the role of tribunals from the substantial role to supplemental role.
The person who is aggrieved by an order of the government or its agencies can approach the tribunal within one year from the date on which the official was penalized and this representation has to be disposed of within six months. 13
In State of Orissa v. Bhagaban Sarangi14 the Supreme Court has held that a Tribunal (Orissa State Administrative Tribunal) is bound by the decisions of High Court.
Establishment of Tribunals for the civil servants is a great initiative by the government. The number of pendency of cases in different High Courts may be reduced by having the tribunals in each state or one for two or more State. The system of having a tribunal is not growing in a direction but it is lacking with far-reaching goal. 15 In present status, the tribunals are let free to interpret the principles of natural justice as there are no definite or uniform norms for them. 16
But there are some suggestions for the efficient & good working of the Tribunals:
- There is an instant need to list the Tribunals working under various enactments.
- A committee should be constituted to administer the working of these Administrative Tribunals. Committee must be independent and permanent in nature which consists of people who have deep knowledge about administration.
- Existing jurisdiction of the High Courts and the Supreme Court should be maintained unimpaired.
- There must be creation of an administrative bench of the Supreme Court in each High Court to deal with the appeals under Article 136.
- In the appointment committee, Chief Justice of India can be the head, if required.
- The salaries of each member of the Tribunal must be revised.
- There should not be any interference and biasness in the appointment of the members of the Tribunals.
- The suitable provisions must be provided for appeal in the Tribunals.
“The views of the authors are personal“
- (1992) 4 SCC 432
- Thakker, C.K., Administrative Law, Eastern Book Company: Lucknow, 1996, p. 226.
- Nayak, R., Administrative justice in India, Butterwoths: New Delhi, 1989, p. 38.
- Jain, M.P., Principles of Administrative Law, Wadhwa & Company : Nagpur, 1996, pp.246-248
- Saha, Dr. Tushar Kanti, Administrative Law, Kanishka Publishers: New Delhi, 2001, p. 121.
- Chhabra, Sunil, Administrative Tribunals, Deep and Deep Publications, New Delhi, 1990, p. 2.
- 11 Ibid
- AIR 1954 SC 520.
- AIR 1950 SC 188
- AIR 1965 SC 1595
- (1987) 1 SLJ 124
- 25 (19970 3 SCC 261
- Section 21 of Central Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985.
- (1995) 1 SCC 399
- Jain, M.P., and Jain, S.N., Principles of Administrative Law, LexisNexis Butterworths, Wadhwa Nagpur, 2010, p. 790.
- Ibid, pg. 867-868.