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Administrative Tribunals

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Synopsis:

I. Introduction

II. Definition

III. Constitutional Recognition

IV. Administrative Tribunals: Misnomer

V. Test

1. Authorities held tribunals

2. Authorities not held tribunal

VI. Reasons for growth

1. Increasing governmental functions:

2. Traditional Judicial system inadequate:

3. Complex questions:

4. Mixed panel:

5. Avoid technicalities:

6. Preventive measures:

7. Effective steps:

8. Inappropriate procedure:

9. Manned by experts:

10. Rapid, cheap, efficient:

I. Introduction

The theory of "laissez faire" is not followed anymore. The traditional "Police State" has now been replaced by the "Welfare State". This radical change in the philosophy of the role to be played by the State, the functions of the state have expanded substantially. This lead to the establishment of Administrative Tribunals to decide various quasi judicial issues in stead of ordinary courts of law.

II. Definition

Durga Shankar Mehta v. Raghuraj Singh

The Supreme Court defined "tribunal" in the following words:

The expression 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 are invested with judicial as distinguished from administrative or executive functions.

A tribunal is an adjudicating body which decides controversies between the parties and exercise judicial powers as distinguished from purely administrative functions and thus possess some of the trappings of a court, but not all.

III. Constitutional Recognition

Tribunals have been recognized by the Constitution of India. Under Article 136 of the Constitution an appeal lies by Special Leave granted by the Supreme Court challenging any Judgement, Decree, Sentence or Order passed or made by any Tribunal in India. Under Article 227 every High Court exercises power of superintendence over all tribunals throughout the territories over which it exercises jurisdiction.

Under Articles 323 A and 323 B, brought into force by the Constitutional 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 parliament has been authorised to constitute administrative tribunals for settlement of disputes and adjudication of matters specified therein.

IV. Administrative Tribunals: Misnomer

According to Wade, the expression "Administrative Tribunals" is misleading for various reasons.

Every tribunal is constituted by an Act of the Parliament and not the Government as one may think.

Decisions of such tribunals are judicial and not administrative. A tribunal comes to a decision by reaching a finding of fact, appying law to such fact and decides such legal questions objectively and not on the basis of executive policy.

Tribunals not only deal with cases in which Government is a party but some tribunals adjudicate disputes between two private parties too, e.g. disputes between landlords and tenants; employers and employees, etc.

Tribunals are independent. They are not subject to administrative interference as to how they decide any particular case.

M.P. Jain, therefore, suggests that it is better to designate these bodies as "tribunals" by discarding the word "administrative".

V. Test

The basic test of a tribunal within the meaning of Article 136 or Article 227 of the Constitution is that
1. It is an adjudicating authority(other than a court)
2. Its is vested with the judicial power of the State under a statue or a statutory rule".

1. Authorities held tribunals

Following authorities have been held tribunals within the meaning of Article 227:

1. Revenue Tribunal

2. Industrial Tribunal

3. Election Tribunal

4. Rent Control Authority

5. Panchayat Court

6. Commissioner for Religious Endowments

7. Custom Authorities

8. Custodian of Evacuee property

9. Statutory Arbitrator

10. Payment of Wages Authority

2. Authorities not held to be Tribunals

The following authorities have not been held to be tribunals:

1. Military Tribunal

2. Conciliation Officer

3. Domestic Tribunals

4. Private Arbitrator

5. Custom Officer

6. Registrar acting as a taxing officer

7. Legislative Assembly

8. Appropriate Government exercising power to make reference under the Industrial Disputes Act.

9. Advisory Board under Preventive Detention Law

10. Judges Enquiry Committee

VI. Reasons for growth of Tribunals

1. Increase in functions of the Governtment :

Increasing functions and activities of the Government, number of cases pending before the courts are on the rise. Administrative Tribunals have contributed to the preservation of ordinary judicial system.

2. Inadequacy of the Traditional Judicial system:

The traditional Judicial System has proved to be inadequate to decide and settle the pending cases. It is slow, costly, complex, there are too many formalities, overburdened with pending cases, no speedy disposal of even very important matters.

3. Inadequacy to deal with Complex questions:

Usually the traditional Courts are not capable of dealing with comples questions arising out of the modern technological advanced situations. The regular courts are used to deal with cases involving legal principles and rules which are applied to cases in general.

4. Expert members:

The Ordinary Court consist of Judges with knowledge restricted to law. Tribunals consists of members and panels which have persons with expert knowledge in particular fields. They specialize in such fields for example science, industries, environment, etc.

5. Avoid technical aspects:

The Ordinary Courts deal with cases according to the procedure established by law over time and in the Civil and Criminal Codes of Procedure. Tribunals do not follow these rules and formalities which hamper the speedy trials. But they do follow the Principles of Natural Justice.

6. Taking preventive measures:

Preventive measures can be taken by the Tribunals, for example making license compulsory, rate-fixing, etc. Tribunals do not wait for the dispute to arise before them instead they take action before hand.

7. Effective steps for enforcement:

Effective steps for enforcement of the aforesaid preventive measures can be taken by the Administrative Tribunals, e.g. suspension, revocation or cancellation of licenses, destruction of contaminated articles, etc.

10. Speedy, cheap, efficient:

Administrative Tribunals decide cases faster than ordinary courts. They are cheap since they do not take long time as ordinary courts and they are headed by experts thus the decisions of the Tribunals are just.

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