Salus Populi Est Suprema Lex
(Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law)
In Administrative law, the term tribunal
is used in a significant sense and
refers to only the adjudicatory bodies which are outside the sphere of the
ordinary court of law. Technically in India, the judicial powers are vested in
the Courts which aim to safeguard the rights of the individuals and promote
justice. 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.
The traditional theory of laissez faire
has been given up and the old police state
has now become a welfare state
. This radical change in the
philosophy of the role of the state expanded the functions of the state. Now
the state is over burdened with sovereign functions, social security, social
welfare, socio-economic activities and so on. It is not possible for the
ordinary courts of law to entertain all socio-economic problems which are not
related to purely legal issues.
In Durga shankar Mehta v. Raghuraj Singh
AIR 1954 SC 520.
The Supreme court defined Tribunal
The expression Tribunal
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
According to The Franks committee, Tribunals have certain characteristics which
often give them advantages over the courts. These are cheapness, accessibility,
freedom from technicality, expedition and expert knowledge of their particular
Article 136 of the constitution empowers the Supreme Court to grant special
leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, order, determination, sentence or
order passed or made by any tribunal in India.
Article 227 enables every High Court to exercise power of superintendence over
all tribunals throughout the territories over which it exercises jurisdiction.
The constitutional (42nd amendment) Act, 1976, inserted Article 323-A and 323-B,
by which parliament has been authorized to constitute administrative tribunals
for settlement of disputes and adjudication of matters specified therein.
Administrative Tribunal: Vague Title:
According to Wade, the expression Administrative Tribunal
for various reasons:
- Every tribunal is constituted by an Act of the parliament and not by
- Decisions of such tribunals are judicial rather than administrative.
- Sometimes tribunals adjudicate disputes between private individuals.
- Such tribunals are independent, free from any administrative
In order to be a tribunal, it is essential that the power of adjudication must
be derived from a statute and not from an agreement between the parties
is a private body set up by the agreement between the
Reasons For Growth:
- Increasing governmental functions and activities overloaded the courts.
The traditional judicial system proved to be inadequate to decide and settle
all the disputes requiring resolution.
- In modern society, complex questions arise which cannot be decided on
objective legal principles, they are to be solved by keeping in mind policy
consideration and public interest.
- Traditional courts are only equipped with legal knowledge, but modern
administration requires, specialization and expertise knowledge in relevant
- Administrative tribunals can avoid technicalities.
- Administrative tribunals can take preventive measures.
- Administrative tribunals conferred with wide discretion power, and
decisions may be given on the basis of departmental policy and other
- Administrative tribunals work more rapidly, cheaply, and efficiently
than ordinary courts.
Administrative Tribunal And Court: Distinction:
- A court of law is a part of traditional judicial system and it derives its power from the state. On the other hand and administrative
tribunal is an agency created by a statute and invested with judicial Powers.
- Ordinary civil courts have judicial powers to try all suits of a civil
nature, except those whose cognizance are either expressed or implied
Barred. Administrative tribunals only have the power to try cases which are
specially conferred upon them through some statute.
- Lack of jurisdiction to try all cases of civil nature does not
necessarily lead to an inference that the forum is a tribunal and not a
court. A court can also be constituted with limited jurisdiction.
- Judges of ordinary courts of law are independent from the executive
power of the government. Members of administrative tribunals are entirely in
the hands of government in respect of certain matters.
- The presiding officer of a court of law is a trained legal officer.
Whereas the president or the members of the tribunal may not be trained as
well in law.
- In a court of law, a judge cannot decide a matter in which he is
interested. An administrative tribunal may be party to the dispute to be
decided by it.
- A court of law is bound by all the rules of evidence and procedure. An
administrative tribunal is not bound by those rules unless otherwise
- A court of law must decide all the questions objectively on the basis of
the evidence and material produced before it.
- An administrative tribunal may decide the questions taking into account
the departmental policies or expediency and the decision may be subjective
rather than objective.
- While a court of law is bound by precedents, principle of res judicata and estoppels.
An administrative tribunal is not strictly bound by them.
- A court of law can decide the vires of a legislation while and tribunal cannot do so.
Administrative Tribunal Vs. Executive Authority:
- Administrative tribunal is not an executive body or administrative
department of the government.
- The powers conferred on an administrative tribunal are Quasi judicial
and not purely administrative.
- Administrative tribunals are bound to act judicially and they have to
observe the principle of natural justice.
- They add administrative only because they are part of an administrative
scheme for which a minister is responsible to parliament and because the
reasons for preferring them to the ordinary courts are administrative
- It is a creation of a statute and thus it has a statutory origin.
- It has some of the features of ordinary court but not all of them.
- Admission tribunals are interested with judicial powers of the state.
- They perform judicial and quasi judicial functions but not purely
administrative or executive functions and they are bound to act
- Administrative tribunals possess the powers of an ordinary court with
regard to the procedural matters.
- Administrative tribunal is not bound by the strict rules of evidence and
- Administrative tribunals are not always concerned exclusively with the
cases in which government is a party they also decide disputes between two
- Administrative tribunals are independent and they are not subject to any
administrative interference in discharge of the judicial and quasi judicial
- The writs of certiorari and prohibition are available against the
decision of administrative tribunals.
Power To Grant Interim Relief:
- An administrative tribunal is created by statute.
- It possesses all the power conferred on it by the parent Act.
- It has also the power to grant interim relief during the pendency of
proceedings before it.
where an Act confers jurisdiction, it impliedly also
grants the power of doing all such acts, or employing such means, as are
essentially necessary to its execution.
Administrative Tribunals And Principles Of Natural Justice:
- An essential feature of Administrative tribunal is that they decide the
disputes independently, judicially, objectively and without any bias for or
prejudice against any of the parties to the dispute.
- The Franks committee, in its report (1957) has proclaimed three
fundamental objectives, 1) openness, 2) fairness, 3) impartiality.
- These principals are accepted in India. The Law commission? in its 14th
report (1958) has observed that administrative tribunals perform
quasi-judicial functions and they must act judicially and in accordance with
the principles of natural justice.
Rules Of Procedure And Evidence:
- The tribunals are invested with powers conferred on civil courts by CPC
in respect of, 1) summoning of witnesses and enforcement of attendance, 2)
discovery and inspection, 3) production of documents, etc.
- The proceedings of administrative tribunals are deemed to be judicial
proceedings for the purposes of sections 193, 195 and 228 of IPC and sections
345 and 346 of CrPC.
- They are not bound by the strict rules of procedure and evidence.
Provided they observed the principles of natural justice.
Reasons For Decision:
Subba Rao J
- Recording of reasons in support of the order is considered to be a part
of natural justice.
- In M.P. Industries Ltd. vs. Union of India, AIR 1966 SC 671
Arbitrariness in their functioning destroys the concept of a welfare state
itself. A reasoned order is desirable condition of judicial disposal.
Finality Of Decisions:
In Dhulabhai Vs. State of M.P.
AIR 1969 SC 78
Hidayatullah CJ. summarised the principles after exhaustively discussing the
- Where the statute gives finality of the order of the special tribunal,
the civil court's jurisdiction must be held to be excluded.
- Where there is an express bar of jurisdiction of the court.
- Provisions of a particular Act which is challenged as an ultra virus act
cannot be brought before the tribunal constituted under that act.
- When a provision is already declared unconstitutional, a suit is open?
against that provision. A writ of certiorari may include a direction for
refund if the claim is clearly within the time prescribed by the limitation
Act, but it is not compulsory remedy to replace a suit.
- When that particular act contains no machinery for refund of tax
collected in excess of constitutional limit then a suit lies.
- No appeal, revision or reference against the decision of an
administrative tribunal is maintainable if the said right is not conferred
by the relevant statute.
- However, this will not affect the jurisdiction of High court under
Articles 226 and 227 and of the Supreme Court under Articles 32 and 136 of
- The power of judicial review is recognized by the constitution and the
same cannot be taken away by any statute.
According to Denning LJ
, if tribunals were to be at liberty to exceed
their jurisdiction without any check by the courts, the rule of law would be at
Power To Review:
An Administrative tribunal becomes functus officio as soon as it makes an order
and there after cannot review its decision unless the same is conferred on it by
a statute, and the decision must stand unless and until it is set aside by the
appellate or revisional authority or by a competent court.
Doctrine Of Resjudicata:
- Section 11 of CPC deals with doctrine of res judicata.
- Though section 11 of CPC speaks about civil suits only, the general
principles underlying the doctrine of res judicata applies even to
- Thus, an award pronounced by the industrial tribunal operates as res
judicata between the same parties and the payment of wages authority has no
jurisdiction to entertain the said question again.
Whether Bound By The Decision Of Supreme Court And High Court:
- Article 141 of the constitution declares that:
the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within
the territory of India". Undoubtedly, the scope of Article 141 is wide
enough to include all ordinary courts as well as the administrative
- There is no such provision corresponding to Article 141 with respect to
the law declared by the High court.
- As the Supreme Court is the apex court in the country, the High court is
the apex court in the state.
- Like the Supreme Court, the High court over and above the writ
jurisdiction, has also supervisory jurisdiction of all subordinate courts
and inferior tribunals within the territories in relation to which it
exercises its jurisdiction.
- Therefore if any administrative tribunal act without jurisdiction,
exceeds its power or seeks to transgress the law laid down by the High
court, the High court can certainly interfere with the action of the
Doctrine Of Precedent:
- Administrative tribunals are bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court
and of the High court in the territories within which they exercises their
jurisdiction and also bound by the decisions of a higher authority.
In Bhopal sugar industries limited vs ITO
AIR 1961 SC 182.
The Income-Tax officer refused to carry out clear and unambiguous direction
issued by the Income-Tax Tribunal. Observing that such refusal would be against
the fundamental principle of hierarchy of courts, the Supreme Court
such a view is restricted of the basic principle of the administration
Doctrine Of Stare Decisis:
The doctrine of Stare Decisis applied to crown's court does not stricto
sensu apply to administrative tribunals.
The duty of a Tribunal is "to reach the right decision in the circumstances of
the moment" and they are not bound to follow previous decisions.
Contempt Of Administrative Tribunals:
- Article 129 and 215 of the constitution preserve all the powers of the
Supreme Court and the High courts, respectively, as a court of record which
includes the power to punish the contempt for itself.
- Section 10 of The contempt of courts Act, 1971 empowers every High court
to exercise the same jurisdiction, power and authority in respect of
contempt of courts subordinate to it as it exercises in respect of contempt
- The question, however, is whether a Tribunal can be said to be a "court"
subordinate to the High court or not.
- In some cases, The Supreme court held that the phrase "courts
subordinate to a High court" under The Contempt of courts Act is wide enough
to include administrative Tribunal throughout the territories in relation to
which the High court exercises it's jurisdiction under Article 227 of the
constitution, whereas in some the other cases, it has taken a contrary view.
- Sometimes there is no appeal against the Tribunal's decision, e.g. Rent
Tribunal. Tremendous power which can ruin a person's life. There is no
higher court in which their decision can be tested.
- A court of no appeal has been put into the hands of men who are
generally neither qualified lawyers, magistrate nor judges.
- There is no evidence on oath, and therefore there can be no proper cross
examination as in a court of law.
- Procedure is as the Tribunal shall determine. No rules have been laid
down as to the procedure at the Tribunal hearing. Witnesses may be heard or
not heard at their pleasure.
In 1955, a committee was appointed by the Lord Chancellor under the chairmanship
of Sir Oliver Frank to look into the complaints and make recommendations of the
constitution and working of the administrative tribunals in England.
The committee considered the grievances and submitted its report in 1957 and
made the following recommendations:
Griffith and Street have included the following recommendations:
- The appointment, removal, qualification and remuneration of the members
of the Tribunal. Procedure for each Tribunal, based on common principles but
suited to its needs, should be formulated by the council.
- Hearing should be in public, except only in cases involving, 1) public
security, 2) intimate personal or financial circumstances or 3) professional
- Legal representation should always be allowed, save only in most
- Tribunal should have the power to take evidence on oath, to examine
witnesses and to award costs.
- The decisions of the Tribunal should be reasoned and made available to
the parties in writing.
- There should be right of appeal on facts, law and merits to an appellate
Tribunal, except where the lower Tribunal is exceptionally strong.
- There should also be remedies through certiorari, prohibition and
- The council should advise, and report quickly, on the application of all
these principles to the various tribunals, and should advise on any proposal
to establish a new Tribunal.
- Adjudication of law and fact in which no policy question is involved
should not be carried out by Ministers themselves or by civil service in the
- The personnel of tribunals deciding issue of law or fact or applying
standard should be independent of the department with which their functions
- The personnel should enjoy security of tenure and adequacy of
- At least one member of the Tribunal should be a lawyer if the question
of fact and law arise, one member may have the expert knowledge where such
knowledge would be helpful to guide discretion and apply standards.
- An Appellate system should be provided.
These recommendations were accepted by the government and implemented by the
Tribunals and Inquires Act, 1958 which was substituted by the act of 1971 and
then by the act of 1992
Constitutional (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976:
The amendments made two major changes as far as Tribunals are concerned.
- It took away the power of superintendence of High court over
administrative tribunals which they possessed under Article 227 of the
- After Part XIV, it inserted Part XIV-A (Article 323-A and 323- B) by
enabling Parliament to constitute administrative tribunals for the purposes
specified therein. These amendments may also provide for the exclusion of
jurisdiction of all courts except that of the Supreme court under Article
Constitution (44th Amendment) Act, 1978
- Article 227 was amended and jurisdiction of High courts over
administrative tribunal had been restored.
- No amendment was made in Part XVI-A as inserted by the Constitutional
(42nd Amendment) Act, 1976.
Sampath Kumar V. Union Of India (1987) 1 Scc 124:
- In exercise of the power conferred by Article 323-A of the constitution,
Parliament enacted the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.
- Section 28 of the said Act excluded the power of judicial review in
service matters under Article 226 and 227 of the constitution.
- The constitutionality of the Act was challenged before the Supreme Court
in this leading case.
- The constitutional bench upheld the validity of the Administrative
Tribunals Act, 1985.
Post Sampath Kumar Position:
In Sampath Kumar, the Supreme Court observed that CATs were the real
of the High Courts de jure as well as de facto in regards to the
matters to be dealt with by them and no void had been created.
The Arrears Committee:
- There were some serious complaints against the tribunals as they did not
allow to argue properly, some of them did not allow oral submissions, some
of them did not allow to cite Supreme Court judgments and so on.
- The ARREARS COMMITTEE after the in-depth review of these problems,
stated in its report Vol. II (1989-1990), CHAP 8, 9. 110- 111; PARA, 8-65.:
The overall picture regarding tribunalisation of justice in our country in
not satisfactory and encouraging. There is a need for a fresh look and
review and a serious consideration before experiment is extended to new
areas of the fields, especially if the constitutional jurisdiction of the
High court is to be simultaneously ousted.
L. Chandra Kumar V. Union Of India (1997) 3 Scc 261:
- After considering various decisions on the point, the larger bench held
that the power of judicial review is the basic and essential feature of the
- Parliament is empowered to amend the constitution, but that power cannot
be exercised so as to damage the essential feature of the constitution.
- It was held that, Section 28 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985
and clause 2(d) of Article 323-A and clause 3(d) of Article 323-B was ultra vires as amended by the 42nd amendment Act, 1976
A sound justice delivery system is a sine qua non for the efficient governance
of a country wedded to the rule of law. An independent and impartial judiciary
in which the litigating public has faith and confidence alone can deliver the
Any institutional mechanism or authority in negation of judicial review is
destructive of basic structure.
For inspiring confidence and faith in the litigating public they must have an
assurance that the persons deciding the disputes are totally and completely free
from influence of pressure from executive. To maintain independence and
impartiality, it is necessary that the persons appointed in tribunals are
judicial and objective approach and also possess sufficient knowledge and legal
training.Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Sagnik Chakraborty
Authentication No: DE34173691466-6-1220
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