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Administrative Tribunals:Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial authorities

RAS/RTS Prelims and Mains Exam Preparation

ADMINISTRATIVE ADJUDICATION

Administrative adjudication is a name give to the administrative exercise of judicial functions. It is a name given to the various ways of deciding disputes outside the ordinary courts. Administrative adjudication is constitutional, though it is a negation of the principle of separation of powers. Administrative adjudication is the participation or involvement of the executive arm of government (administrative agencies) in judicial function. Through the instrumentality of administrative adjudication, administrative agencies can pass authoritative and appealable decisions.

Administrative adjudication in india

In India, administrative adjudication increased after independence and several welfare lawswere promulgated which vested the power on deciding various issues in the hands of theadministration. The modern Indian Republic was born a Welfare State and thus the burden onthe government to provide a host of welfare services to the people was immense. Thesequasi-judicial powers acquired by the administration led to a huge number of cases withrespect to the manner in which these administrative bodies arrived at their decisions.

Administrative Tribunals in India

  In India growth of administrative tribunals has been rather haphazard. They have come into existence as or when required. Though their number has been gradually multiplying, yet they have never been organized into a coherent system. Over 3,000 such courts exist in India.  Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Railway Rates Tribunal, Labour Courts, Industrial Tri­bunals, Wage Boards, Compensation Tribunals, Election Tribunals, Central Administrative Tri­bunal, Rent Tribunals are some of the examples of such Tribunals.

Administrative tribunals are constituted with amendment to Articles 323A and 323B of the Indian Constitution. These are constituted to exclusively deal with service matters of the civil servants. However, Administrative Tribunal is a substitute to High Court. These tribunals are quasi-judicial in nature but assigned with adjudicate the matters referred before them. It is a sign of welfare state. As many tribunals are working today, regulatory mechanism is very much needed. The tribunals are established to avoid regular court approach by civil servants. The only strict restriction imposed on them is to follow Principles of Natural Justice, but the tribunals started to give their own construction to interpret the Principles of Natural Justice. This is because there are no settled definite principles to say these are the fundamental principles of Natural Justice.

Central Administrative Tribunal:  Article 323 A added in the Constitution of India in 1985 provides for the setting up of Administrative Tribunal for adjudicating the disputes relating to service matters of persons em­ployed to public services and posts in the Central Government and the States. In Pursuance of the above amendment the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 was enacted.  The CAT enjoys the status and powers of a High Court in respect of service matters Appeals against its orders He to the Supreme Court only. It has 17 regular Benches operating at the principal seats of High Court. These regular Benches also hold circuit sittings at other seats of High Courts.

The difference between CAT and ordinary courts is as follows:

  • The Tribunal is free from the shackles of many of the technicalities of the ordinal courts in respect of hearing of evidence and pleading by the lawyers and the presentation of the case.
  • The government can present its case through the departmental officers or legal prac­titioners.
  • Only a nominal fee is to be paid by the petitioner for filing an application before the Tribunal.

The members of the Administrative Tribunals are drawn from the administrative stream also, whereas the judges of ordinary courts belong to the legal stream.

State administrative tribunal

Article 323 B empowers the state legislatures to set up tribunals for various matters. The matters to be covered by such tribunals are as follows:

Levy, assessment, collection and enforcement of any tax

Matters connected with Land reforms covered by Article 31A

 

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal:  Section 252 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 provides that the Central Government shall constitute an Appellate Tribunal consisting of an many Judicial Members and Accountant mem­bers as it thinks fit to exercise the powers and functions conferred on the Tribunal by the Act.  Under the Act, a judicial Member shall be a person, who has held a judicial office for at least ten years or has been a Member of the Central Legal Services and has held a post in Grade II of that service or any equivalent or higher post for at least three years or who has been an Advocate for at least ten years.

The powers and functions of the Tribunal are exercised and discharged by the Bench constituted from amongst the members of the Tribunal. A Bench consists of one Judicial Mem­ber and one Accountant Member. The Benches of the Tribunal have been constituted in differ­ent parts of the country presently there are 63 benches.

Advantages of Administrative Tribunals

  • 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 as follows:
  • Administrative adjudication has brought about flexibility and adaptability in the judicial as well as administrative tribunals.
  • 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.
  • Administrative justice ensures cheap and quick justice. As against this, procedure in the law courts is long and cumbersome and litigation is costly.
  • The system also gives the much-needed relief to ordinary courts of law, which are already overburdened with numerous suits.

Disadvantages of Administrative Tribunals

  • 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.
  • Administrative tribunals have in most cases, no set procedures and sometimes they violate even the principles of natural justice.
  • 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.
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