Tribunals should not function as another department under the control of the executive: Supreme Court of India

Shivani Bhardwaj

These tribunals do not function in isolation, but are a part of the larger scheme of justice dispensation envisioned by the Constitution and have to function independently, and effectively, to live up to their mandate. The involvement of this Court, in the series of decisions, rendered by no less than six Constitution Benches, underscores the importance of this aspect.- Supreme Court of India

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India on Friday 27 November gave a path breaking judgement underscoring dispensation of justice by the Tribunals can be effective only when they function independent of any executive control: this renders them credible and generates public confidence.

The Supreme Court judgement by a three-judge Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat brings on record that a disturbing trend of the Government not implementing the directions issued by this Court has been noticed. It has also been pointed out that to ensure that the Tribunals should not function as another department under the control of the executive, repeated directions have been issued that have gone unheeded forcing the Petitioner to approach th apex Court time and again.

Asserting that it is high time that the Court puts an end to this practice, the Supreme order goes on to point out that Rules are framed which are completely contrary to the directions issued by this Court. Upon the tribunals has devolved the task of marking boundaries of what is legally permissible and feasible (as opposed
to what is not lawful and is indefensible) conduct, in a normative sense guiding future behavior of those subject to the jurisdictions of such tribunals. This task is rendered even more crucial, given that appeals against their decisions lie directly to the Supreme Court and public law intervention on the merits of such decisions is all but excluded. Also, these tribunals are expected to be consistent, and therefore, adhere to their precedents, inasmuch as they oversee regulatory behavior in several key areas of the economy.

Therefore, it is crucial that these tribunals are run by a robust mix of experts, i.e. those with experience in policy in the relevant field, and those with judicial or legal experience and competence in such fields. The functioning or non-functioning of any of these tribunals due to lack of competence or understanding has a direct adverse impact on those who expect effective and swift justice from them. The resultant fallout is invariably an increased docket load, especially by recourse to Article 226 of the Constitution of India. These aspects are highlighted once again to stress that these tribunals do not function in isolation, but are a part of the larger scheme of justice dispensation envisioned by the Constitution and have to function independently, and
effectively, to live up to their mandate. The involvement of this Court, in the series of decisions, rendered by no less than six Constitution Benches, underscores the importance of this aspect.

The order goes on to emphasise that the role of the courts as upholders of judicial independence, and the executive as the policy making and implementing limb of governance, is to be concordat and collaborative. This Court expects that the present directions are adhered to and implemented, so that future litigation is avoided.

The Government has been directed by the Supreme Court to strictly adhere to the directions given above and not force the Petitioner-Madras Bar Association, which has been relentless in its efforts to ensure judicial independence of the Tribunals, to knock the doors of this Court
again.

Click to download Supreme Court order

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