In Administrative law, the term 'tribunal' is used in a significant sense and
refers to only the adjudicatory bodies which lie outside the sphere of the
ordinary judicial system. Technically in India, the judicial powers are vested
in the Courts which aims to safeguard the rights of the individuals and promotes
Therefore, to institute an effective system of the judiciary with fewer
complexities, the judicial powers are delegated to the administrative
authorities, thus, giving rise to administrative tribunals or administrative
adjudicatory bodies which holds quasi-judicial features.
Growth of Administrative Tribunals
The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution introduced Part XIV-A which included
Article 323A and 323B providing for constitution of tribunals dealing with
administrative matters and other issues. According to these provisions of the
Constitution, tribunals are to be organized and established in such a manner
that they do not violate the integrity of the judicial system given in the
Constitution which forms the basic structure of the Constitution.
The introduction of Article 323A and 323B was done with the primary objective of
excluding the jurisdiction of the High Courts under Article 226 and 227, except
the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 136 and for originating an
efficacious alternative institutional mechanism or authority for specific
The purpose of establishing tribunals to the exclusion of the jurisdiction of
the High Courts was done to reduce the pendency and lower the burden of cases.
Therefore, tribunals are organised as a part of civil and criminal court system
under the supremacy of the Supreme Court of India.
From a functional point of view, an administrative tribunal is neither an
exclusively judicial body nor an absolute administrative body but is somewhere
between the two. That is why an administrative tribunal is also called
Characteristics of Administrative TribunalsThe following are the few attributes of the administrative tribunals which make
them quite disparate from the ordinary courts:
- Administrative tribunals must have statutory origin i.e. they must be created by any statute.
- They must have some features of the ordinary courts but not all.
- An administrative tribunal performs the quasi-judicial and judicial functions and is bound to act judicially in every circumstance.
- They are not adhered by strict rules of evidence and procedure.
- Administrative tribunals are independent and not subject to any administrative interference in the discharge of judicial or quasi-judicial functions.
- In procedural matters, an administrative tribunal possesses the powers of a court to summon witnesses, to administer oaths, and to compel the production of documents, etc.
- These tribunals are bound to abide by the principle of natural justice.
- A fair, open, and impartial act is the indispensable requisite of the administrative tribunals.
- The prerogative writs of certiorari and prohibition are available against the decisions of administrative tribunals.
Categories of Administrative Tribunals:
Distinction between Courts and Tribunals:
- Administrative Tribunals for service matter [Article 323A]
Article 323A provides the establishment of administrative tribunals by law made
by Parliament for the adjudication of disputes and complaints related to the
recruitment and conditions of service of Government servants under the Central
Government and the State Government. It includes the employees of any local or
other authority within the territory of India or under the control of the
Government of India or of a corporation owned or controlled by the Government.
The establishment of such tribunals must be at the centre and state level
separately for each state or for two or more states. The law must incorporate
the provisions for the jurisdiction, power and authority to be exercised by
tribunals; the procedure to be followed by tribunals; the exclusion of the
jurisdiction of all other courts except the Supreme Court of India.
- Tribunals for other matters [Article 323B]
Article 323B empowers the Parliament and the State Legislature to establish
tribunals for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the
matters specified under clause (2) of Article 323B. Some of the matters given
under clause (2) are a levy, assessment, collection and enforcement of any tax;
foreign exchange and export; industrial and labour disputes; production,
procurement, supply and distribution of foodstuffs; rent and it's regulation and
control and tenancy issues etc. Such a law must define the jurisdiction, powers
of such tribunals and lays down the procedure to be followed.
In the landmark case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, the court reached
various conclusions as to jurisdictional powers of the tribunal constituted
under Articles 323A and 323B. The Supreme Court struck down clause 2(d) of
Article 323A and clause 3(d) of Article 323B on the ground that they excluded
the jurisdiction of the High Courts and the Supreme Court under Article 226/227
and 32 respectively.
The SC ruled that the tribunals created under Article 323A and 323B would
continue to be the courts of the first instance in their respective areas for
which they are constituted. The litigants are not allowed to approach the High
Courts directly by overlooking the jurisdiction of the concerned tribunal.
No appeal for the decision of the tribunal would lie directly before the Supreme
Court under Article 136 but instead, the aggrieved party would be entitled to
move the High Court under Article 226 and 227 and after the decision of the
Division Bench of the High Court, the party may approach the Apex Court under
|A Court of law is a part of the traditional
|The administrative tribunal is an agency created
by a statue endowed with judicial powers.
|A Court of law is vested with general
jurisdiction over all the matters.
|It deals with service matters and is vested with
limited jurisdiction to decide a particular issue.
|It is strictly bound by all the rules of evidence
and by the procedure of the Code of Civil Procedure.
|It is not bound by the rules of the Evidence Act
and the CPC unless the statute which creates the tribunal imposes such an
|It is presided over by an officer expert in the
|It is not mandatory in every case that the
members need to be trained and experts in law.
|The decision of the court is objective in nature
primarily based on the evidence and materials produced before the court.
|The decision is subjective i.e. at times it may
decide the matters taking into account the policy and expediency.
|It is bound by precedents, the principle of res
judicata and the principle of natural justice.
|It is not obligatory to follow precedents and
principle of res judicata but the principle of natural justice must be
|It can decide the validity of legislation.
|It cannot decide the validity of legislation.
|The courts do not follow investigatory or
inquisition functions rather it decides the case on the basis of evidence.
|Many tribunals perform investigatory functions as
well along with its quasi-judicial functions.
The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985
In pursuance of the provisions in Article 323A, Parliament passed the
Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985, providing for all the matters falling within
the clause(1) of Article 323-A.
According to this Act, there must be a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) at
the centre and a State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) at the state level for
The tribunal is competent to declare the constitutionality of the relevant laws
and statutes. The Act extends to, in so far as it is related to the Central
Administrative Tribunal, to the whole of India and in relation to the
Administrative tribunals for states, it is applicable to the whole of India
except the State of Jammu and Kashmir (Section 1).
Objective for the establishment of Administrative Tribunals:
The main purpose of the introduction of this act was:
Applicability of the Act:
According to Section 2 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, the act
applies to all Central Government employees except:
- To relieve congestion in courts or to lower the burden of cases in
- To provide for speedier disposal of disputes relating to the service
Composition of the Tribunals and Bench:
- The members of the naval, military or air force or any other armed forces of the Union
- Any officer or servant of the Supreme Court or any High Courts
- Any person appointed to the secretariat staff of either House of the Parliament
Section 4 of this Act describes the composition of the tribunals and bench. Each
tribunal shall consist of a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Judicial and Administrative
members. Every bench must include at least one judicial and one administrative
member. The benches of the Central Tribunal shall ordinarily sit at New Delhi,
Allahabad, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay and such other place as the Central
Government specifies. The Chairman may transfer the Vice Chairman or other
members from one bench to another bench.
Qualification and Appointment of Members:
Section 6 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, lays the provisions
specifying the qualifications and appointment of the members of tribunals.
- He is or has been a judge of a High Court
- He has held the office of Vice Chairman for two years
- He has held the post of secretary to the Government of India
- He has held any other post carrying the scale pay of secretary
- Is or has been a judge of the High Court
- Has for 2 years held the post of Secretary to the Government or holding any other post carrying the same pay scale under the Central or State Governments
- Has held for 5 years the post of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India or any other post carrying the scales of pay of Additional Secretary
- Be or have been a judge of the High Court
- Have been a member of Indian Legal Service and has held a post in Grade I of the service for at least 3 years
- Have held the post of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India or another equivalent post for at least 2 years
- Have held the post of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India or other equivalent post
- Have adequate administrative experience
The Chairman, Vice-Chairman and other members shall be appointed by the
President. The Judicial Members shall be appointed by the President with the
consultation of the Chief Justice of India. The Chairman, Vice-Chairman and
other members of the State Tribunal shall be appointed by the President after
consultation with the Governor of the concerned state.
Term of Office
According to Section 8 of the Act, the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and other members
of the tribunal shall hold the office for a term of 5 years or until he attains-
Resignation and Removal
- Age of 65 years, in the case of the Chairman or Vice-Chairman
- Age of 62 years in the case of other members
Section 9 of the Act prescribes the procedure of resignation by any member and
removal of any member.
The Chairman, Vice-Chairman or other members may resign from his post by writing
to the President.
They shall be removed from their office only by an order made by the President
on the ground of proved mis-behaviour or incapacity after an enquiry made by a
judge of the Supreme Court. They shall have the right to be informed of the
charges against them and shall be given a reasonable opportunity of hearing. The
Central Government may make rules to regulate the procedure for the
investigation of the charges against them.
Jurisdiction of Central Tribunal:
Section 14 states that the Central Tribunal from the day of the appointment
shall exercise all the jurisdiction, powers and authority in relation to the
following matters which were within the jurisdiction of other courts (except the
Supreme Court) before the enactment of this Act:
Procedure and Powers of Tribunals:
Section 22 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 lays down the powers and
procedure of tribunals discussed below:
- Recruitment of any civil service of Union or All India service or civil post under the Union or civilian employees of defence services;
- All service matters of the above-mentioned employees, and also of employees of any local or other authority within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India or any corporation or society owned or controlled by the Government;
- All service matters of such persons whose services have been placed by the State Government or any local or other authority or any corporation at the disposal of the Central Government.
A tribunal is not bound to follow the procedure laid down by the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. It has the power to regulate its own procedure but must abide by the principle of natural justice.
A tribunal shall decide the applications and cases made to it as rapidly as possible and every application shall be decided after scrutinizing the documents and written submissions and perceiving the oral arguments.
Tribunals have the same powers as vested by the civil courts under the Code
of Civil Procedure, 1908, while trying a suit, with regard to the following
- Summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath;
- Production of documents;
- Receiving evidence on affidavits;
- Ask for any public record or document from any office under Section 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872;
- Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents;
- Reviewing its decisions;
- Deciding the case ex-parte;
- Setting aside any order passed by it ex-parte;
- Any other matter prescribed by the Central Government.
Union of India v. R. Gandhi, President, Madras Bar Association
The constitutionality of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National
Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) on the following grounds:
- Parliament does not have authority to vest the judicial functions in any tribunal that have been traditionally performed by the High Courts since so long.
- Transferring the entire company jurisdiction of the High Court to the tribunal are violative of the doctrine of Rule of Law, Separation of Powers and Independence of the Judiciary.
- The various provisions of Part 1B and 1C of the Companies Act are defective and unconstitutional, being in breach of constitutional principles of Rule of Law, Separation of Powers and Independence of the Judiciary.
Judgment: the court upheld the constitutionality of NCLT and NCLAT in exercising
the powers and jurisdiction of the High Court subject to necessary changes to be
made in the Companies Act, 1956 as amended in 2002, through suitable amendments
The court acknowledged and upheld the constitutional power of the Parliament to
constitute tribunals for adjudication of disputes. The legislative competence of
Parliament to provide for the creation of courts and tribunals can be traced to
Article 245, 246 and 247 of the Constitution read with various entries in the
Union List and the Concurrent List which is in no way affected or controlled by
Article 323A or 323B of the Constitution.
The court further added that it cannot be assumed that constitution of tribunals
and transferring judicial powers per se infringe the rule of law, separation of
powers and independence of the judiciary because the Constitution enables both
courts and tribunals to exercise judicial powers.
What matters the most is whether the constituted tribunals respect and maintain
the principles of separation of powers, rule of law and independence of the
judiciary. The constitution of NCLT and NCLAT must be subject to judicial review
so that the court in the exercise of judicial review look into the matter to
check if these principles are compromised by such tribunalisation and may
interfere in between to preserve the same.
Advantages of Administrative Tribunals
The concept of administrative tribunals was introduced because it has certain
advantages over ordinary courts. Few of them are mentioned below-
- Flexibility: The introduction of administrative tribunals engendered flexibility and versatility in the judicial system of India. Unlike the procedures of the ordinary court which are stringent and inflexible, the administrative tribunals have a quite informal and easy-going procedure.
- Speedy Justice: The core objective of the administrative tribunal is to deliver quick and quality justice. Since the procedure here is not so complex, so, it is easy to decide the matters quickly and efficiently.
- Less Expensive: The Administrative Tribunals take less time to solve the cases as compared to the ordinary courts. As a result, the expenses are reduced. On the other hand, the ordinary courts have cumbrous and slow-going, thus, making the litigation costly. Therefore, the administrative tribunals are cheaper than ordinary courts.
- Quality Justice: If we consider the present scenario, the administrative tribunals are the best and the most effective method of providing adequate and quality justice in less time.
- Relief to Courts: The system of administrative adjudication has lowered down the burden of the cases on the ordinary courts.
It can be concluded that in the present scenario, the administration has become
an important part of the government as well as the citizen's life. Due to this
increasing role, it is important to establish a competent authority for the
redressal of people's grievances and adjudication of the disputes. Therefore,
the concept of administrative tribunals was emerged and is dynamically
flourishing in India holding certain flaws and strengths.
- AIR 1997 SC 1125
- 1987 SCR (3) 233
- 2010 6 SCR 857
- The Administrative Law by I.P. Massey
- Administrative Tribunal Act 1985
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Neetu Choudhary
Authentication No: NV332234973727-18-1123