Beginning with the mid of the 20th century and especially after the second world war the modem state, including India have undertaken numerous social welfare activities. After independence, India adopted a Constitution which sets forth the objective of achieving socio-economic justice to all and for constituting a welfare-State. With this motive in mind and with the expansion of governmental role the concept of the Administrative Tribunals originated. The word ‘tribunal’ takes its origin from the Latin term tribunus which means “a raised platform with the seat of judge, who elected by the pleas, protect their interests”. According to Oxford Dictionary, the tribunal means “Judgment Seat or “a Court of justice”. These are the public agencies that are other than the ordinary Courts of law that hear the disputes and give a final decision which binds the parties. They have the legal authority to determine any claim, controversy or dispute that affects the rights of the parties.
The concept of Administrative Tribunals was given sanctity by the forty-second Amendment to the Constitution of India, in 1976, introduced a new Part XIV-A in the Constitution consisting of Articles 323-A and 323-B empowering the Parliament and the State Legislatures to create separate Tribunals for adjudication of disputes in certain specific areas. Articles 227 and 136 of the Constitution of India also mentions the word ‘’tribunal”. In terms of advantage of tribunals, the two most important advantages are that they are not technical and formal Courts. They provide speedy, cheap remedy to a large number of disputes that arise out of the implementation of various welfare legislations and the new socio-economic legislations and socio-economic measures enacted by the modern welfare State. Thus the administration of justice by Tribunals as a recent phenomenon is full of possibilities and advantages.
Cases like Bharat Bank Ltd. v. Employees of Bharat Bank Ltd. 1950 AIR 188 and Jaswant Sugar Factories v. Lakshmi Chand, 1963 AIR 677 laid down the essential attributes of a tribunal as having the trappings of a Court and though they exercise quasi-judicial functions, they are not full-fledged Court. In cases of Durga Shankar Mehtha v. Raghuraj Singh, AIR 1954 SC 520, the Supreme Court stated that ‘Tribunal’ as used in Article 136 does not mean the same thing as ‘Court’ but includes within its ambit, all adjudicating bodies provided they are constituted by the State and invested with judicial as distinguished from administrative or executive functions. Again in Associated cement companies Ltd. v. P.N. Sharma, AIR 1965 SC 1595, it was observed that tribunals are an adjudicating body which decides controversies between the parties and exercises judicial powers as distinguished from purely administrative functions and the possesses some of the trappings of a Court, but not all.
There are various types of Administrative Tribunals in India including, administrative tribunal for service rules; Tribunals for finance matters which includes the Revenue Board of State, District Magistrate relating to rent control and revenue cases. Election commission acts as the Tribunal in violation of Election Rules. Under the Land Acquisition Act, the District Magistrate can act as tribunal in case of grievance regarding land acquisition. With respect to transport disputes of officials from the transport department can act as tribunal.
The Administrative Tribunal Act of 1985 provides for the establishment of three types of Tribunlas ie: the Central Administrative Tribunal for adjudication of disputes with respect to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or other local authorities within the territory of India or under the control of Government of India and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. They hear service matters involving central services, state and civil matters. Secondly the State Administrative Tribunal for state civil services matters and lastly the Joint Administrative Tribunals which are setup for two or more states.
However the working of the Administrative Tribunals is not free from criticism on the points that they lack in legal expertise. It is against the concept of separation of Power as the administration is both the litigant and judge in its own case thus defying the Principles of Natural Justice. However we need to realize that the phenomenon of Administrative Tribunal is one of necessity. The Parliament is increasingly conferring powers of adjudication on special Tribunals with the aim to provide a system of adjudication, which was informal, cheap and rapid. The welfare plans and policies and the disputes concerning them requires decision making system through Administrative Tribunal. For this its important to give more autonomy and the political interference should be minimal. Legal experts and members of civil society must be appointed as the officers of the Tribunal. Appeal to the Courts of law must be allowed in all cases. If these safeguards are adopted they will go a long way in establishing the Administrative Tribunals and in maintaining the pace of growth and welfare in the modern welfare society.
Dr Neelam Tyagi
Jims- School of Law, JEMTEC