With the acceptance of Welfare ideology, there was a mushroom growth of public services and public servants. The courts, particularly the High Courts were inundated with cases concerning service matters. The Swaran Singh Committee therefore, inter-alia recommended the establishment of Administrative Tribunals as a part of Constitutional adjudicative system. Resultantly the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976 inserted Part XIV-A to the Constitution of India consisting of Articles 323A and 323B.
Article 323A provides for the establishment of Administrative Tribunals for adjudication or trial of disputes and complaints with respect to recruitment, conditions of service of persons appointed to public services and other allied matters.
Article 323B makes provision for the creation of Tribunals for adjudication or trial of disputes, complaints or offences connected with tax, foreign exchange, industrial and labour disputes, land reforms, ceiling on urban property, election to Parliament and State Legislatures, etc. Parliament has power to enact any law under Article 323A while both Parliament and State Legislatures can make laws on matters of Article 323B, subject to their legislative competence.
Types of Administrative Tribunals
There are different types of administrative tribunals, which are governed by the statues, rules, and regulations of the Central Government as well as State Governments.
- Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)
The enactment of Administrative Tribunals Act in 1985 opened a new chapter in administering justice to the aggrieved government servants. It owes its origin to Article 323A of the Constitution which empowers the Central Government to set up by an Act of Parliament, the Administrative Tribunals for adjudication of disputes and complaints with respective recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to the public services and posts in connection with the Union and the States.
The Tribunals enjoy the powers of the High Court in respect of service matters of the employees covered by the Act. They are not bound by the technicalities of the Code of Civil Procedure, but have to abide by the Principles of Natural Justice. They are distinguished from the ordinary courts with regard to their jurisdiction and procedures. This makes them free from the shackles of the ordinary courts and enables them to provide speedy and inexpensive justice.
The Act provides for the establishment of Central Administrative Tribunal and State Administrative Tribunals. The CAT was established in 1985. The Tribunal consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Members. These Members are drawn from the judicial as well as the administrative streams. The appeal against the decisions of the CAT lies with the Supreme Court of India.
- Customs and Excise Revenue Appellate Tribunal (CERAT)
The Parliament passed the CERAT Act in 1986. The Tribunal adjudicate disputes, Complaints or offences with regard to customs and excise revenue. Appeals from the orders of the CERAT lies with the Supreme Court.
- Foreign Exchange Regulation Appellate Board (FERAB)
The Board was set up under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973. A person who is aggrieved by an order of adjudication for causing breach or committing offences under the Act can file an appeal before the FERAB.
- Income Tax Appellate Tribunal
This Tribunal has been constituted under the Income Tax Act, 1961. The tribunal has its benches in various cities and appeals can be filed before it by an aggrieved person against the order passed by the Deputy Commissioner or Commissioner or Chief Commissioner or Director of Income Tax. An appeal against the order of the Tribunal lies to the High Court. An appeal also lies to the Supreme Court if the High Court deems fit.
- Railway Rates Tribunal
This Tribunal was set up under the Indian Railways Act, 1989. It adjudicates matters pertaining to the complaints against the railway administration. These may be related to the discriminatory or unreasonable rates, unfair charges or preferential treatment meted out by the railway administration. The appeal against the order of the Tribunal lies with the Supreme Court.
- Industrial Tribunal
This Tribunal has been set up under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. It can be constituted by both the Central as well as State governments. The Tribunal looks into the dispute between the employers and the workers in matters relating to wages, the period and mode of payment, compensation and other allowances, hours of work, gratuity, retrenchment and closure of the establishment. The appeal against the decision of the Tribunal lies with the Supreme Court.
At present and in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in ‘Chandra Kumar’s case, the administrative tribunals are rendering the following diversified judicial duties/functions:
- Functioning as a ‘Court of first instance; by adjudicating the Original Applications (shortly called O.A.s) filed by the Government employees and also Miscellaneous Applications, Contempt Applications and Review Applications, arising out of them.
- Adjudicating the cases remanded by the High Courts, in exercise of its power of ‘Judicial Review’.
- Adjudicating cases remanded by the Supreme Court of India.
Advantages of Administrative Tribunal
Administrative adjudication is a dynamic system of administration, which serves, more adequately than any other method, the varied and complex needs of the modern society.
The main advantages of the administrative tribunals are:
Administrative adjudication has brought about flexibility and adaptability in the judicial as well as administrative tribunals. For instance, the courts of law exhibit a good deal of conservatism and inelasticity of outlook and approach. The justice they administer may become out of harmony with the rapidly changing social conditions. Administrative adjudication, not restrained by rigid rules of procedure and canons of evidence, can remain in tune with the varying phases of social and economic life.
b) Adequate Justice
In the fast changing world of today, administrative tribunals are not only the most appropriated means of administrative action, but also the most effective means of giving fair justice to the individuals. Lawyers, who are more
concerned about aspects of law, find it difficult to adequately assess the needs of the modern welfare society and to locate the individuals place in it.
c) Less Expensive
Administrative justice ensures cheap and quick justice. As against this, procedure in the law courts is long and cumbersome and litigation is costly. It involves payment of huge court fees, engagement of lawyers and meeting of other incidental charges. Administrative adjudication, in most cases, requires no stamp fees. Its procedures are simple and can be easily understood by a layman.
d) Relief to Courts
The system also gives the much-needed relief to ordinary courts of law, which are already overburdened with numerous suits.
Disadvantages of Administrative Tribunals
Even though administrative adjudication is essential and useful in modern day administration, we should not be blind to the defects from which it suffers or the dangers it poses to a democratic polity. Some of the main drawbacks are mentioned below.
a) Administrative adjudication is a negation of Rule of Law. Rule of Law ensures equality before law for everybody and the supremacy of ordinary law and due procedure of law over governmental arbitrariness. But administrative tribunals, with their separate laws and procedures often made by themselves, puts a serious limitation upon the celebrated principles of Rule of Law.
b) Administrative tribunals have in most cases, no set procedures and sometimes they violate even the principles of natural justice.
c) Administrative tribunals often hold summary trials and they do not follow any precedents. As such it is not possible to predict the course of future decisions.
d) The civil and criminal courts have a uniform pattern of administering justice and centuries of experience in the administration of civil and criminal laws have borne testimony to the advantages of uniform procedure. A uniform code of procedure in administrative adjudication is not there.
e) Administrative tribunals are manned by administrators and technical heads who may not have the background of law or training of judicial work. Some of them may not possess the independent outlook of a Judge.