Advantages of Tribunals

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Advantages of Tribunals | Overview

ABSTRACT

This article talks about the various Advantages of Tribunals that make them preferred over the ordinary Courts in cases where they have jurisdiction. Administrative tribunals although are bodies with sub-delegated powers from the judiciary and do not have as wide powers and scope as other Courts but have come to become a lucrative and highly favoured option due to the multifarious advantages they provide like openness, fairness, cheap and speedy remedy, easy accessibility, absence of technicalities of evidence and procedure etc.

INTRODUCTION

In the view of the functions of the State expanding, it is inevitable for the emergence of bodies that help and support the branches of the government in carrying out its extended range of functions. Social, economic and political justice cannot be administered exclusively by ordinary law courts.

Thus, specialized tribunals and administrative agencies share the adjudication of disputes. They don’t fit in the general idea of ordinary courts. Their development depends on the needs of the modern welfare state. The preferred position which they have over courts lies in affordability, openness, detail, and specialized approach etc.

According to H.W.R Wade, “The social legislation of the twentieth century demanded tribunals for purely administrative reasons; they could offer speedier, cheaper and more accessible justice, essential for the administration of welfare schemes involving a large number of small claims.

The process of Courts of law is elaborate, slow and costly…Commissioners of customs and excise were given judicial powers more than three centuries ago. Tax tribunals were in fact established as far back as the 18th century.”[1]

ESTABLISHMENT OF TRIBUNALS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION

The reasons for the Administrative tribunals increasing in India were as follows:

– The judiciary was proving inefficient in dealing with administrative matters, especially when it came to needing of specialization or certain technicalities

– The tradition judiciary system was proving to be costly, expensive and prolonged due to the excessive procedural requirements

In 1958, the establishment of appellate tribunals at state and Centre was suggested by a Law Commission report on “Reform of Judicial Administration”. Then in 1974 in its 58th Report, the Law Commission suggested a separate tribunal for service matters.

Before which is 1969, the High Court’s Arrears committee had recommended the establishment of the same for pending matters before the High Court and Supreme Court.

After this came the Swaran Singh Committee in 1976, which rejected the distinction between administrative and ordinary courts, brought up that Administrative Tribunals may be set up under Central law, both at the State level and at the Centre to decide cases relating to service matters.

Consequently, based on the recommendations of this Committee the 42nd Constitutional Amendment was carried out that introduced part XIV-A of the Constitution titled as “Tribunals”. Under this, Article 323-A and 323-B were added. Article 323-A authorized the Parliament to enact a law for establishing tribunals to decide service disputes of employees of the Union, states, local or other authority including any corporation owned or controlled by the government.

Article 323-B empowered the appropriate legislature to establish by law tribunals for adjudication or trial of disputes or offences relating to taxation, foreign exchange, labour, land reforms, the ceiling on urban property, elections, essential goods and incidental matters.[2]

In the light of the amendments and articles, the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 was passed covering all the matters that were under Clause 1 of Article 323-A. This Act authorised central government to establish administrative tribunals for central services and on the application of States even for States services as well as for local bodies and other authorities including the public corporation.

From the date of establishment of tribunals, all courts except the Supreme Court under Art 136 lose their jurisdiction with respect to the matter falling within the jurisdiction of the tribunals. A tribunal shall consist of Chairman and such number of Vice-Chairmen and other members as appropriate Government may deem fit.

They are appointed by the President in the case of Central tribunals and by the President in consultation with the Governors or Governors in case of State or joint Tribunals. The qualifications regarding that are laid down in the Act.[3]

ADVANTAGES OF TRIBUNALS

At the beginning of the modern tribunal system, the goal was that tribunals ought to give simple access to specialist adjudicators at no expense to applicants. There was no charge for the application to tribunals and no expense for applicants in the event that they lost.

The hearings were to be informal and there was a presumption that the informality of procedures would make it feasible for applicants to represent themselves at hearings. tribunal chairman would play a significant and active role in hearings and employ simple procedures. The procedure was proposed to be quick, not stalled by intricacies and not bound by technical standards of evidence.

Since there was seen to be no requirement for exceptionally trained judges, the framework could be worked inexpensively. Despite the fact that tribunal chairmen would not be of similar qualities and calibre as judges, their focus on specialized branches of knowledge would prompt ability and, probably, good decision making.

Tribunals were, along these lines, presented as being useful for applicants who might frequently be from among the most disadvantaged sections of the society, and who are expected, would be overwhelmed the possibility of taking their case to a court.

  • Procedural advantages

the legal system is shaped by men, according to the need of the time. While it is necessary for this procedural legal system, it has disadvantages as it is moulded by human agencies as they are formulated on settled ethical ideas and in periods of transition do not adjust with the advanced developments and conceptions of the present changes.[4]

As the need for strict affirmative action and judicial intervention increased, the executive started expanding rapidly and started coming out of its rigid procedural bounds, possessing popular support and less control, thus came the administrative regulation method.

The courts due to their traditional reticence and the fact that a judge must not also be the advocate of a cause, they could not themselves take actions such as increasing injunctional powers, revising technical rules, insisting in the increase in the number of courts etc.

So, many administrative bodies started growing comfortably because of their adjustment to the new forming needs that courts fell short of. The new system of administering justice proved advantageous due to its flexibility, adapting to the handling of complex issues needing specialized and technical support, but at the same time without being shackled by too many unnecessary technicalities of procedure and evidence, the capability to initiate action quickly and saving time and money.

The spreading jurisdiction which has been conferred on tribunals by Parliament might have been conferred on the courts, but the statistics demonstrate that the existing courts would have been totally engulfed by the flood of cases. But Parliament’s choice of a tribunal in preference to a court has been based on more than a desire to spare the courts from an unsupportable burden. The intention has been that tribunals should be cheap and accessible.”[5]

A tribunal is not obstructed by the provisions of the Evidence Act, it resorts to the inquisitional procedure while following principles of natural justice. They are also unfettered by the CPC. A plea of violation of statutory provision can be taken before the tribunal and it is competent to execute its own order through the Administrative tribunal’s act does not have any specific provision for it.

  • Informality 

The absence of strict rules of evidence; the absence of court robes; the frequent absence of representatives appearing for applicants, etc. Indeed, it might be argued that the only common, unifying aspects of adjudicative institutions that bear the label ‘tribunal’ concern their superficially distinctive procedures and personnel.

The rigid rules that are applicable to the Courts in regards to evidence, pleading, other procedures, do not hold binding on the tribunals working. Tribunals may rely on hearsay evidence or decide the questions of the onus of proof or admissibility of documents by exercising discretionary powers. Because of this flexibility and informality, the complaints need not be represented by a lawyer strictly.

They may be represented by an individual, or be represented themselves or by a unit of people like trade unions etc. Due to the adaptability and open-endedness, there are no strict rules of precedent to follow and the authorities have the discretion to mould, change previous decisions and exercise their own decision-making power without any binding. But usually, since it is believed that Courts are superior to everyone, the tribunals tend to follow the precedents laid by the Courts.

  • Specialised approach 

When administrative tribunals comprise of people who have spent a considerable amount of their education in studying on one particular subject or field of knowledge such as transportation, communication, taxation or trade practices, are undoubtedly better qualified to deal with specific problems that arise in respect to these, compared to a judge of an ordinary court, who does not have intimate knowledge of all the various subjects that he has to deal with.

He might not even have time to familiarise himself with the facts and law in each particular problem. This is also an advantage that the tribunals have over ordinary courts. For example in the National Tax Tribunal Act, 2005 in India, the Section 4 talks about the Composition of the tribunals and state that “The National Tax Tribunal shall consist of a Chairperson and such number of Members as the Central Government deems fit, to be appointed by that Government, by notification in the Official Gazette.”

Moving on to the Section 8, it states the Qualifications for Appointment of Chairperson and other members, it is mentioned that “(1) The Chairperson of the National Tax Tribunal shall be a person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice of a High Court. (2) A person shall not be qualified for appointment as Member unless he– (a) is, or has been, or is eligible to be, a Judge of a High Court; or (b) is, or has been, a Member of the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal or of the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal for at least seven years. Such rules demand that a person well versed in the subject is only allowed to adjudicate on those matters.”[6]

  • Cheap remedies 

“Administrative tribunals came to be set up mainly because the ordinary processes of the law were too circumscribed to achieve certain ends and because the methods of the courts of law were found to be too slow and expensive”[7] The fact that administrative tribunals can deal with cases effectively and quickly results in the saving of high expenses.

  • Speedy remedies 

An advantage of the tribunals is the certainty of hearings happening on specified dates and the decision to be made within a specific period of time. Most of the times it is specified in the provisions of law under which the tribunals are set up, the amount of time it should take for the dispute or case to be settled.

For instance, the Labour Appellate tribunal provides that the decisions of the tribunal shall be delivered within sixty days. The speedy trial tribunals dispose of a large number of cases in a short span of time with efficiency.

  • Accessibility 

The point of the tribunals is to give people a promptly open forum wherein they can bring in their complaints, and getting cases to the tribunals is comparatively considered positively and not as troublesome as getting a case into the ordinary Courts.

In ordinary courtrooms, the general practice is that, if any individual needs to institute a suit, he needs to go to a legal advisor, the attorney subsequent to considering everything discovers the correct forum to take the case to. In the tribunal’s framework, all people concerned know the forum and consequently, the tribunals are easily accessible to all.

To conclude, a summary of reasons and advantages for the development and need of tribunals is put forth by an eminent British Professor, John Dickinson, as follows:

“The particular advantages which a system of regulation by the government thus has over one of regulation by law differ in the different fields of regulation, but the differences are in the matter of emphasis; the respective advantages fall, with greater or less incidence, under one or more of the following heads:

“1. Regulation by government opens a way for action to be taken in the public interest to prevent future harm where there would be no assurance that any action would be taken if the initiative were left wholly to interested individuals.

“2. It provides for action that will be prompt and preventive, rather than merely remedial, and will be based on technical knowledge which would not be available if it were taken through the ordinary course of law.

“3. It ensures that the action taken will have regard for the interests of the general public in a way not possible if it were only the outcome of a controversy between private parties to a law-suit.

“4. It permits the rules for the prevention of socially hurtful conduct to be flexible rules, based on discretion, and thus makes possible the introduction of order in fields not advantageously admitting the application of rules of a rigid and permanent character.”[8]


[1] Wade, H.W.R & Forsyth, C.F., Administrative Law, Oxford University Press, United Kingdom, 10th edn., 2009 at p. 773

[2] SERVICE TRIBUNALS UNDER ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS ACT Author(s): K. C. Joshi

[3] Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 http://cgat.gov.in/act.htm

[4] Pound, Justice According to Law (1913-1914)

[5] JUSTICE, Report on Administrative Justice (1988)

[6] National Tax Tribunal Ac, 2005- https://indiacode.nic.in/handle/123456789/2032?view_type=browse&sam_handle=123456789/1362)

[7] Robson JUSTICE AND ADMINISTRATIVE LAW (1928)

[8] DICKINSON, ADMINISTRATIVE JUSTICE AND THE SUPREMACY OF THE LAW (1927)