The Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 was introduced in Lok Sabha on 2 August 2021 and passed from Lok Sabha on 3 August 2021 and from Rajya Sabha on 9 August 2021. It received the assent of the President on 13th August 2021. This act seeks to dissolve certain tribunals constituted under the respective statute and transfer the appeals to certain existing judicial bodies such as High Courts, etc.
The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2021 was introduced in February 2021. But the bill was pending at the end of the session as a result of which an ordinance was promulgated. New Rules were also notified under the Finance Act, 2017. Both the Rules and the Ordinance were challenged before the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court struck down both of them. The Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 was enacted to replace the Ordinance. The past 3 years’ data shows that the presence of tribunals in certain sectors has not led to faster adjudication but added the cost to the exchequer. So, The Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 dissolves certain appellate body and transfer their functioning to the existing judicial bodies such as High courts, etc.
Constitution of Search-cum-Selection Committee:
The act provides provision for the constitution of Search-cum-Selection Committee. The Search-cum-Selection Committee shall consist of—
- a Chairperson – the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by him;
- two Members – Secretaries to the Government of India to be nominated by that Government;
- One Member – the sitting or outgoing Chairperson, a retired Supreme Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court, and
- Member Secretary – the Secretary of the Ministry under which the Tribunal is constituted
Search-cum-Selection Committee for a State Administrative Tribunal shall consist of
- Chairman – the Chief Justice of the High Court of the concerned state Chairman
- two Members – the Chief Secretary of the state government and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission of the concerned state
- One Member – the sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired High Court Judge, and
- Member Secretary – the Secretary or Principal Secretary of the state’s general administrative department
Tenure of Chairperson and Member of Tribunal.
- The tenure of the Chairperson of a Tribunal shall be for a term of 4 years or till he attains the age of seventy years, whichever is earlier;
- the tenure of a Member of a Tribunal shall be for a term of 4 years or till he attains the age of sixty-seven years, whichever is earlier:
Finance Act, 2017
The Finance Act, 2017 reorganised the tribunal system by merging the tribunals based on functional similarity. The Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 removes these provisions of the Finance Act, 2017.
Appellate body replaced by the Act:
|Acts||Appellate Body||Proposed entity|
|The Cinematograph Act, 1952||Appellate Tribunal||High Court|
|The Trade Marks Act, 1999||Appellate Board||High Court|
|The Copyright Act, 1957||Appellate Board||Commercial Court or the Commercial Division of a High Court|
|The Customs Act, 1962||Authority for Advance Rulings||High Court|
|The Patents Act, 1970||Appellate Board||High Court|
|The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994||Airport Appellate Tribunal||The central government, for disputes arising from the disposal of properties left on airport premises by unauthorised occupants.|
High Court, for appeals against orders of an eviction officer.
|The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002||Airport Appellate Tribunal||Civil Court|
|The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999||Appellate Board||High Court|
Individuals: This act has several impacts on various sections of society including individuals. This act tries to ensure that speedy justice prevails and that speedy justice is not at the cost of the exchequer.
Businesses: This act has also impacted the business as this act resolves disputes speedily and effectively which promotes a healthy business environment.
The Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, has not been amended yet.
The Constitutional validity of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 was challenged in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India & Anr. where the main contention is that the Act which contains similar provisions as the ordinance which was struck down by the Supreme Court in its previous judgement is constitutionally valid. The case is pending before the Supreme Court.
The Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 has been passed in the parliament hastily without any parliamentary debate. The Act violated the principles of separation of powers and will pose a threat to judicial independence. As the Act will allow the Central government to make decisions on the search-cum-selection committee’s recommendations.
The provisions relating to the tenure of the Chairpersons and Members of the Tribunal as prescribed in the Ordinance have been struck down by the Supreme Court but the act contains the same provisions as had been struck down. Also, speedy and effective justice may be denied as the dissolution of the Tribunal will further overburden the traditional judicial bodies. Also, the purpose for which the tribunal was established is for specialized knowledge of the subject area that aspect may also be compromised.
The Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, was enacted to dissolve certain tribunals and shift their functioning to the existing judicial bodies such as the High Court. The act had been enacted with the object of speedy and effective judicial adjudication which the past 3 years’ data showed that the tribunal was incapable of. While the Act had been criticized on many grounds, the foremost of them being the principles of separation of powers as the Act allows the Central Government to make decisions on the search-cum-selection committee’s recommendations which will further question the independence of the judiciary. Now, it remains to be seen how the Act will be implemented and whether it will achieve its objectives.