By abolishing the appellate authorities under separate Acts and conferring the freedom to hear appeals to high courts, the Bill contemplates major changes to ten laws.
On February 13, in the Lok Sabha, the Central Government adopted the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalization and Terms of Service) Bill, 2021.
The Bill contemplates major changes to ten laws by doing away with the judicial authorities in different Actions by granting the right to hear appeals to High Courts.
The changes contemplated by the Bill to separate laws are below.
The Appellate Tribunal, which is empowered to hear appeals against rulings of the Censor Board, is supposed to be abolished under the Cinematograph Act. The High Court in question is scheduled to succeed the Appellate Tribunal to hear cases of the Board’s decisions.
Section 2(h), which specifies an Appeal Tribunal, is supposed to be deleted for this reason. In addition, under Section 7C, which confers on the Appellate Tribunal appeal authority, the word ‘Appellate Tribunal’ will be replaced by the word ‘High Court.’
Copyright Act, 1957
Under the Copyright Act, the Bill aims to remove the Appeals Board. Besides possessing numerous other powers, the Appellate Board is empowered to hear appeals against decisions from the Registrar of Copyrights.
The Bill tried to replace Commercial Courts or High Courts for the Appellate Board, which will exercise the authority of the Appellate Board. A new clause, describing “Commercial Court” as follows, shall be introduced into the Copyright Act as per the Bill:
“For the purposes of any State, the Commercial Court shall mean the Commercial Court constituted in accordance with section 3 or the Commercial Division of the High Court constituted in accordance with section 4 of the Commercial Courts Act 2015.”
The Appellate Board’s authority to hear petitions against the orders of the Registrar of Copyrights is now vested in the High Court’s Sole Judge.
Custom Act, 1962
The Customs Act aims to remove the Appeal Body to replace it with the High Court.
Currently, the Appellate Authority is empowered to hear appeals against decisions of the Advance Judgments Customs Authority. This authority is now supposed to be entrusted to the High Court.
Patents Act, 1970
Under the Statute, the Bill aims to remove the Appeals Board. The Appellate Board is currently empowered to hear appeals against rulings, directives, or directives of the Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademarks or of the Central Government, in compliance with Section 117A of the Patents Act.
It is now recommended that authority be vested on the High Court by the Appellate Board.
Airport Authority of India, 1994
As with other laws, by omitting Section 28I of the Airport Authority of India Act, the Bill aims to abolish the Airport Appellate Tribunal.
The Airport Appellate Tribunal has the jurisdiction to hear appeals against the eviction officer’s orders.
Trademark Act, 1999
By eliminating Section 83 of the Trademarks Act and a number of other clauses, it is planned to abolish the Intellectual Property Appeals Board (IPAB).
As in the case of other appeal tribunals, the jurisdiction of the IPAB is expected to be replaced by the High Court.
As per the Bill, instead of IPAB, challenges from the judgment of the Registrar of Trademarks will now be liable to the High Court.
Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Indication) Act, 1999
It also aims to substitute the Appeal Board alluded to in this Act with the High Court.
Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Right Acts, 2001
The Bill aims to abolish the Appellate Tribunal for the Protection of Plant Varieties constituted under Section 54 of the Act 2001 on the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights.
Under Section 56 of that Act, the Appellate Tribunal is allowed under that Act to hear appeals against decisions of the Authority for the Conservation of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights and of the Registrar of the Registry of Plant Varieties.
It is recommended that this authority be entrusted to the High Court in question.
Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Acts 2002
The Bill aims to remove the Airport Appeals Tribunal under the Act.
The key Civil Court, having original jurisdiction in a district, which involves the High Court in the exercise of its ordinary original civil jurisdiction, shall, in its place, exercise jurisdiction to hear any decision or action made by the Highway Administration or by an appointed officer on its behalf.
Finance Act, 2017
In Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017, the Bill seeks to insert a new provision, sub-section (11).
“(11) Notwithstanding any judgment, order, or decree of any court or any law currently in force, I the President of the Tribunal shall hold office for a term of four years or until the age of seventy, whichever is earlier; (ii) the Member of the Tribunal shall hold office for a term of four years or until the age of sixty-seven, whichever is earlier;” (ii) the Member of the Tribunal shall hold office for a term of four years or until the age of sixty-seven. Provided that where a chairperson or a member is appointed between the 26th day of May 2017 and the notified date and term of office or retirement age specified in the order of appointment issued by the central government is greater than that specified in this section, the term of office or retirement age or both shall be, irrespective of anything contained in this section, greater than that specified in this section.
The provision, therefore, seeks to restrict the term of office of the Chairperson to four years or up to the age of 70, whichever is earlier. It is four years of age or the age of 67 for the members of the tribunal. Besides, the entire Section 184 is proposed to be substituted by a new Section 184. The new provision lays down revised qualifications for appointment as President and tribunal members. It also seeks to establish a search-cum-selection committee for the appointment of the chairperson and tribunal members.