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The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021

  • 07 Apr 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, the President promulgated Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021 through which the Appellate authorities under nine laws have been replaced with High Courts.

  • The Ordinance has amended the Finance Act 2017 to include provisions related to the composition of search-cum-selection committees, and term of office of members in the Act itself.

The Finance Act 2017

  • It empowered the central government to notify rules on qualifications of members, terms and conditions of their service, and composition of search-cum-selection committees for 19 tribunals (such as Customs, Excise, and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal).

Key Points

  • Search-cum-selection committees:
    • The Chairperson and Members of the Tribunals will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a Search-cum-Selection Committee.
    • The Committee will consist of:
      • Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court Judge nominated by him, as the Chairperson (with casting vote),
      • Secretaries nominated by the central government,
      • The sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired Supreme Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.
      • The Secretary of the Ministry under which the Tribunal is constituted (with no voting right).
  • Term of Office:
    • The term of office for the Chairperson of the tribunals will be of four years or till the attainment of the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier.
    • For other members of the tribunals, the term will be of four years or till the age of sixty-seven years, whichever is earlier.
  • The Nine Laws (Replacement of Appellate Authorities/Tribunals):
    • The Cinematograph Act, 1952.
    • The Trade Marks Act, 1999.
    • The Copyright Act, 1957.
    • The Customs Act, 1962.
    • The Patents Act, 1970.
    • The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994.
    • The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002.
    • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
  • Reason for Replacing Tribunals:
    • Poor Adjudication & Delay:
      • The quality of adjudication has been underwhelming in most cases, the delays have been substantial because the government has struggled to find competent persons willing to accept positions on these tribunals, and litigation has actually become more expensive, as these tribunals added another layer to it.
    • Litigations Against Them:
      • There has been incessant litigation since 1985 by advocate bar associations against the tribunals over serious questions of their independence from the executive.
  • Related Concern:
    • The cases with High courts could increase.

Tribunals

  • About:
    • It is a quasi-judicial institution that is set up to deal with problems such as resolving administrative or tax-related disputes.
    • It performs a number of functions like adjudicating disputes, determining rights between contesting parties, making an administrative decision, reviewing an existing administrative decision and so forth.
      • The term ‘Tribunal’ is derived from the word ‘Tribunes’, which means ‘Magistrates of the Classical Roman Republic’.
        • Tribunal is referred to as the office of the ‘Tribunes’ i.e., a Roman official under the monarchy and the republic with the function of protecting the citizen from arbitrary action by the aristocrat magistrates.
      • A Tribunal, generally, is any person or institution having an authority to judge, adjudicate on, or to determine claims or disputes – whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title.
  • Constitutional Provisions:
    • Tribunals were not originally a part of the Constitution.
    • The 42nd Amendment Act 1976 introduced provision for tribunals in accordance with the recommendations of the Swaran Singh Committee.
    • The Amendment introduced Part XIV-A to the Constitution, which deals with ‘Tribunals’ and contains two articles:
      • Article 323A:
        • It deals with Administrative Tribunals. These are quasi-judicial institutions that resolve disputes related to the recruitment and service conditions of persons engaged in public service.
      • Article 323B:
        • It deals with tribunals for other subjects such as Taxation, Industrial and labour, Foreign exchange, import and export, Land reforms, Food, Ceiling on urban property, Elections to Parliament and state legislatures, Rent and tenancy rights.

Source:TH

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