A K Agnihotri : TRIBUNALISATION OF JUSTICE

TRIBUNALISATION OF JUSTICE

Appeal from Administrative Tribunal to Supreme Court:

1. Though in the case of CAT,the jurisdiction of High Court under Art 226 over service matter has been taken over by the  respective Administrative Tribunals Act 1985, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over these Tribunals under Art.136 has been retained.
2. Appeals lies to the Supreme Court from orders of an Administrative Tribunal, by special leave under Art 136, on the following grounds-
(i) Error of Law
(ii) Finding of the Tribunal being perverse.
(iii) The order of the Tribunal being without jurisdiction or ultra vires. (iv) The order of the Tribunals being arbitrary or mala fide.
(v) The order of the Tribunal is such as would lead to grave injustice
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 modem society.  The main advantages of the administrative tribunals are:

1) Flexibility

Administrative adjudication has brought about flexibility and adaptability in the judicial as well  as  administrative tribunals.  For instance,  the courts  of law exhibit  a good  deal  of conservatism and  inelasticity of outlook  and approach. The justice they administer may become  out  of  harmony  with  the   rapidly  changing  social  conditions.  Administrative adjudication, not  restrained  by  rigid  rules  of   procedure   and canons  of evidence, can remain in tune with the varying phases of social and economic life.
2) Adequate Justice

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.  Lawyers, who are more concerned about aspects of law, find it difficult to adequately assess the needs of  the modem welfare society and to locate the individuals place in it.
3)  Less Expensive

Administrative justice ensures cheap and quick justice. As against this, procedure in the law courts is long  and cumbersome and litigation is costly. It involves payment of huge court fees,  engagement  of  lawyers  and  meeting  of  other  incidental  charges. Administrative adjudication, in most cases, requires no stamp fees. Its procedures are simple and can be easily understood by a layman.

4) Relief to Courts
The system also gives the  much-needed relief  to ordinary courts  of law, which  are  already overburdened with ordinary suits.
 
DISADVANTAGES OF ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNALS

      Even though administrative adjudication is essential and useful in modem day administration, we should not  be  blind to the defects from which it suffers or the dangers it poses to a democratic polity. Some of the main drawbacks are mentioned below.

(i)  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.  But   administrative  tribunals,  with  their  separate  laws  and procedures often made by themselves, puts a serious limitation upon the celebrated principles of Rule of Law.

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

(iii)  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.

(iv) The civil and  criminal courts have a uniform pattern of administering justice and centuries  of   experience  in  the  administration of  civil and   criminal  laws  have borne testimony to the advantages of uniform procedure. A uniform code of procedure   in administrative adjudication is not there.

(v) Administrative tribunals are manned by administrators and technical heads who  may not have the background of law or training of judicial work. Some of them may not  possess the independent outlook of a judge.

RESTING PLACE 
  Just as the Supreme Court frowned upon Bureaucrats from selecting themselves on to Regulatory Authorities and their respective Appellate Tribunals, the Judges themselves also have been able to ensconce themselves in post retirement sinecures.   
     Following are tribunals/ bodies that function with retired Supreme Court judges. The list is neither illustrative nor exhaustive.
1. The National Human Rights Commission: Chairperson Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, former Chief Justice of India. Member Justice G.P. Mathur.
2. The Law Commission of India: Chairperson Justice P.V. Reddy.
3. The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission: President Justice Ashok Bhan.
4. The Press Council of India: Chairperson Justice Markandey Katju.
5. The Competition Appellate Tribunal of India: Chairman Justice V.S. Sirpurkar.
6. Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta, who was appointed Chairperson of the National Green Tribunal, resigned to become the Lokayukta of Himachal Pradesh. A sitting Supreme Court judge, Justice Swatanter Kumar, has been appointed Chairperson.
7. The Armed Forces Tribunal: Chairperson Justice A.K. Mathur.
8. The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal: Chairperson Justice S.B. Sinha( now retired).
9. The Uttar Pradesh Human Rights Commission: Chairperson Justice H.K. Sema.
10. The West Bengal Human Rights Commission: Chairperson Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly.
11. The Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta: Justice P. P. Naolekar.
Heads of Tribunals
12. The Vansadhara Water Disputes Tribunal: Justice Mukundakam Sharma was appointed Chairperson when he was a sitting judge; he still continues as Chairperson.
13. The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal: Chairperson Justice J.M. Panchal.
14. The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal: Chairperson Justice Brijesh Kumar.
15. The Ravi-Beas Tribunal and the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal: the post of Chairman of both bodies remains vacant.
16. The Commission to settle border dispute between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam is headed by Justice Tarun Chatterjee.
17. The Monitoring Authority to probe the Gujarat fake encounters is headed by Justice H.S. Bedi.
18. The Authority for Advance Ruling: Justice Mr P.K. Balasubramanyan.
In 1986, V Balakrishna Eradi, then a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, was appointed chairperson of the Ravi-Beas River Waters Tribunal to look into the dispute regarding sharing of these waters between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.
In December last year, almost 25 years after he was appointed, Eradi passed away at 89. Another member of the tribunal is retired judge P C Balakrishna Menon (retd), who is 83. Meanwhile, the bitter dispute between the three states over sharing of water, which has seen crores being spent and was also one of the reasons for the growth of terrorism in Punjab, remains unresolved.
    Another former Supreme Court judge, N P Singh, was appointed chairman of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in December 1996. Justice Singh is now 80 and still Chairman. And retired Judge N S Rao, who is the same age as Singh, has been associated with the tribunal since it was set up in June 1990 to resolve the dispute over sharing of Cauvery water between Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Puducherry.
  The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal is headed by 72-year-old former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Brijesh Kumar, who has been on the job along with some other former judges since April 2004.
   Now, the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) has decided to amend the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, to replace all such tribunals with a single one.  
   The number of Judges of the High Courts who are chairing other Tribunals/ Authorities are so many that it is difficult to recount the names or the Tribunals
   While the Judiciary is quick to pounce upon the lower authorities for lack of discipline in decision making, such reprimands do not come easily if the person to be disciplined is a Brother Judge. There was recently a President of an Tribunal who kept all judgments in reserve (wonder why!!) and after 3 years of LOVE’S LABOUR LOST retired leaving the cases to be reheard. Inspite of a legal journal repeatedly taking up the matter, no PIL was instituted.