Recently, the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021 has been promulgated by the central government. Through this ordinance the centre has abolished several appellate tribunals and transferred their jurisdiction to other existing judicial bodies.
The Ordinance has met with sharp criticism for not only bypassing the usual legislative process, but also for abolishing several tribunals such as the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal without consultations with stakeholders. Further, this is not the time that the central government has tried to interfere with the functioning of the tribunal. This interference of the executive in the domain of the tribunals can be dubbed as violation of separation of powers. One way to regulate the matters of tribunals without compromising their independence is the establishment of the National Tribunals Commission (NTC).
Challenges faced by Tribunals
Lack of Independence
According to the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy report (Reforming The Tribunals Framework in India) the lack of independence is one of the key issues plaguing tribunals in India.At the outset, the system of appointment through selection committees severely affects the independence of tribunals.
Problem of Non-Uniformity: Added to this is the problem of non-uniformity across tribunals with respect to service conditions, tenure of members, varying nodal ministries in charge of different tribunals.
National Tribunal Commmission and it’s impact
The idea of an NTC was first mooted by the Supreme Court in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997).
NTC is envisaged to be an independent umbrella body to supervise the functioning of tribunals, appointment of and disciplinary proceedings against members, and to take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the tribunals.
NTC will support uniform administration across all tribunals. It could set performance standards for the efficiency of tribunals and their own administrative processes.
Ensuring Separation of Powers
Giving the NTC the authority to set members’ salaries, allowances, and other service conditions, subject to regulations, would help maintain tribunals’ independence.
Expansion of Services
A ‘corporatised’ structure of NTC with a Board, a CEO and a Secretariat will allow it to scale up its services and provide requisite administrative support to all tribunals across the country.