Madras High Court issues notice in plea by Revenue Bar Association challenging Tribunal Rules, 2020

The Writ Petition was filed under the Article 226 of the Constitution of India which sought to declare the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience, and other conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020 framed by the Central Government dated on 12th February 2020 as void, defective and unconstitutional as it is violative of Article 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution of India. The Rule violates the Doctrine of Basic Structure and Independence of Judiciary, which is a basic part of the Constitution of India. Furthermore, the petition mentioned about the violation of the principals which were laid down by the Honourable Supreme Court of India in Union of India vs. Rahul Gandhi, AIR 2010, 11 SCC 1 and Rojer Matthew vs. South Indian Bank Limited Civil Appeal No. 8588 of 2019

The Respondent in the matter is the Ministry of Finance as they are responsible for the issuance of the impugned rules and the rules were notified under the powers delegated to it under Section 184 of the Finance Act 2017. Another Respondent is the Ministry of Law and Justice, through various orders of the High Courts and Supreme Court ought to be the umbrella body under which various tribunals must function in India. In the Finance Act of 2017, the authority and jurisdiction of 26 tribunals administer under 26 diverse central laws stood modified. The powers to prescribe the eligibility criteria, selection process, removal, salaries and allowances, tenure and other service conditions about members of 19 tribunals were sub-delegated to the rulemaking powers of the Central Government. 

“….The term of office of three years shall be changed to a term of seven or five years subject to eligibility for an appointment for one more term. If these Tribunals are to function effectively and efficiently they should be able to attract younger members who will have a reasonable period of service”. It was mentioned by the bench while addressing the Union of India vs. Rahul Gandhi. 

rule 11 of the impugned rules provide for salary of all the members of the tribunal including the Chairman/ Chairperson/President of the tribunal or the appellate tribunal. It is submitted that this rule suffers from severe infirmity and is against the doctrine of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary, which forms the basic structure of the constitution. rule 14 of the impugned rules, which provides for the Chairman to apply to the Central Government for sanction of leave is violative of principles of independence of the judiciary, which is enshrined in Article 50 of the Constitution of India. rule 15 of the impugned rules classify the Chairman and members of the tribunals in the category of Group ‘A’ officers of Government of India for house rent allowance. under rule 18, it is provided that other conditions of service of the chairman and other members concerning which no express provisions have been made, shall be such as apply to Group ‘A’ Officers of the Government of India of the corresponding status. It is submitted that such grouping of Chairman and members under rules that apply to Group ‘A’ Officers of the Government of India violates the independence of the judiciary. 16. The Schedule to the rules provides for qualification of chairman, all members and the composition of selection committee cum search for 19 tribunals. 

Key-Features:

  •  The Bench consisting of Chief Justice A.P Sahi and Justice S. Prasad directed that the Government of India to file its counter in the matter within 6 weeks.
  • Senior Advocate Arvind Datar appeared for RBA before the High Court. 
  • New rules adversely affect the principle of Separation of Powers, the independence of the the judiciary and violate Article 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution of India.
  • Rule 9 of the 2020 rules provide that a member can hold office for a 4-year term or till he attains 65 years of age.
  • The RBA points out that a similar short tenure of 3 years in the 2017 Rules was criticised by the Supreme Court in the Rojer Mathew case.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

End-Notes:

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