Tribunals in India – UPSC Notes

Tribunals are established to settle up disagreements related to the administration or tax-related disputes. It’s a quasi-judicial institution that performs functions like adjudicating disputes, making an administrative decision, reviewing an existing administrative decision, and determining the rights between the contesting parties. The objective of a tribunal is to deliver speedy and decentralized adjudication of disputes in various matters.

Initially, there were no provisions for tribunals in the Original Constitution of India. But with the 42nd Constitutional amendment act of 1976 (on the recommendation of the Swaran Singh Committee), a new Part XIV-A was added to the Indian Constitution, entitled as “Tribunals”. Part XIV-A consists of only two Articles: Article 323-A and Article 323-B.

Article 323-A of the Indian Constitution deals with the Administrative Tribunals, whereas Article 323-B deals with Tribunals for other matters.

Administrative Tribunals

Under Article 323-A, Parliament by law establish administrative tribunals for the adjudication of disputes related to the recruitment and service conditions of persons appointed to the public services and posts of the Centre, State, and even local bodies, public corporations, and other public authorities. Thus, Article 323-A enables the Parliament to take out the trials of disputes related to service matters from the Civil courts and the High courts and place these trials before the administrative tribunals.

In 1985, the Government passed the Administrative Tribunal Act of 1985, which authorizes the Central government to establish one Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and the State Administrative Tribunals (SATs).

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)

The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) was set up on 1 November 1985, with the principal bench at Delhi. It has 19 Regular Benches and 19 Circuit Benches all over India.

Out of 19 regular benches, two benches are located in Jaipur and Lucknow, while the remaining benches are located at the principal seats of State High courts.

The CAT is a multi-member body comprised of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Members. The members of CAT are drawn from both the judicial and administrative streams. Chairman has a tenure of 5 years or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier, whereas, in the case of Members, they have a tenure of 5 years or 62 years of age, whichever is earlier.

The President of India appoints the members of CAT. The Members appointed in CAT are based on recommendations of a Selection Committee chaired by a Sitting Judge of the Supreme Court (nominated by the Chief Justice of India).

The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) exercises the original jurisdiction over all the service matters of public servants. Its jurisdiction extends to:

  • Members of all-India Services.
  • Persons appointed to the Central civil services or civil post under the Union.
  • Civilians employees of defence services.
  • Employees of the PSUs or public sector organizations, notified by the government.

However, the officers and servants of the Supreme Court, the members of the defence forces, and the Secretariat staff of the Parliament are not covered by CAT.

The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) is guided by the Principles of Natural Justice and is not bound by the Civil Procedure Code. A petitioner can either appear in person or through a lawyer before the tribunal.

State Administrative Tribunals (SATs)

Under the Administrative Tribunal Act of 1985, the Central government establishes the State Administrative Tribunals (SATs) at the specific request of the concerned State governments.

President appoints the Chairman and Members of SATs after consultation with the Governor of the State concerned.

The State Administrative Tribunal exercises the original jurisdiction over all the service matters of the state government employees.

The Administrative Tribunal Act of 1985 also provides a provision to set up Joint Administrative Tribunal (JAT) for two or more States.

Name and Jurisdiction of Benches of CAT

Sr No.BenchTerritorial Jurisdiction of the Bench
1.Principal Bench (New Delhi)National Capital Territory of Delhi
2.Ahmedabad BenchState of Gujarat
3.Allahabad Bench(i) State of Uttar Pradesh (except the Districts mentioned under the Jurisdiction of Lucknow Bench)

(ii) State of Uttaranchal
4.Lucknow BenchDistricts of Lucknow, Hardoi, Kheri, Rai Bareli, Sitapur, Unnao, Faizabad, Ambedkar Nagar, Baharaich, Shravasti, Barabanki, Gonda, Balrampur, Pratapgarh, Sultanpur in the State of Uttar Pradesh
5.Bangalore BenchState of Karnataka
6.Calcutta Bench(i) State of Sikkim
(ii) State of West Bengal
(iii) Union Territory of the Andaman and Nicobar
7.Chandigarh Bench(i) State of Haryana
(ii) State of Himachal Pradesh
(iii) State of Punjab
(iv) Union Territory of Chandigarh
8.Cuttack BenchState of Odisha
9.Ernakulam Bench(i) State of Kerala
(ii) Union Territory of Lakshadweep
10.Guwahati Bench(i) State of Assam
(ii) State of Manipur
(iii) State of Meghalaya
(iv) State of Nagaland
(v) State of Tripura
(vi) State of Arunachal Pradesh
(vii) State of Mizoram
11.Hyderabad BenchState of Andhra Pradesh
12.Jabalpur Bench(i) State of Madhya Pradesh
(ii) State of Chhattisgarh
13.Jodhpur BenchState of Rajasthan (except the Districts mentioned under the jurisdiction of Jaipur Bench)
14.Jaipur BenchDistricts of Ajmer, Alwar, Baran, Bharatpur, Bundi, Dausa, Dholpur, Jaipur, Jhalawar, Jhunjhunu, Kota, Sawar Madhopur, Sikar, Tonk and Karauli in the State of Rajasthan
15.Chennai Bench(i) State of Tamil Nadu
(ii) Union Territory of Pondicherry
16.Mumbai Bench(i) State of Maharashtra
(ii) State of Goa
(iii) Union Territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli
(iv) Union Territory of Daman and Diu
17.Patna BenchState of Bihar
18.Jammu Bench(i) Districts of Doda, Jammu, Kathua, Kishtwar, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Reasi, Samba, and Udhampur in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir

(ii) Leh District in Union of Territory of Ladakh
19.Srinagar Bench(i) Districts of Anantnag, Bandipora, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Kupwara, Pulwama, Shoplan, and Srinagar in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

(ii) Kargil District in Union Territory of Ladakh
Source: Central Administrative Tribunal

Tribunals for other Matters

Article 323-B empowers the Parliament and State legislatures to establish tribunals for the adjudication of disputes related to the following matters:

  • Taxation.
  • Foreign exchange, import, and export.
  • Land reforms.
  • Ceiling on Urban property.
  • Foodstuff.
  • Industrial and labour.
  • Elections to Parliament and State legislation.
  • Rent and tenancy rights.

75th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1993 provided for setting up Tribunals for the adjudication of disputes with respect to rent, its regulation and control and tenancy issues.

Article 323-A differs from Article 323-B

Sr.noArticle 323-AArticle 323-B
1.It contemplates the establishment of the tribunals only for public service matters.It contemplates the establishment of tribunals for several other purposes.
2.Under this Article, Tribunals can only be established by the Parliament.Under this, Tribunal can be established both by the Parliament and State legislatures.
3. Only one CAT and SAT for each state can be established. So, there is no hierarchy of tribunals.A hierarchy of tribunals can be created.

Chandra Kumar Case (1997)

Originally, the orders by the Central Administrative Tribunal could be challenged only in the Supreme court and not in the High Courts. But, in 1997, in the famous “Chandra Kumar v/s Union of India” case, the Supreme court described the judicial review as the ‘Basic structure of the Constitution of India‘. The Supreme court declared that administrative tribunals act as the secondary chambers to the High courts and are not equal or supplementary to the State High courts. Hence, the Supreme Court restored the judicial Review of High Courts over the decisions of Tribunals.

Other Tribunals

There are several tribunals in the country. A few examples of tribunals are as follows:

Income Tax Appellate Tribunal

Under Section 5A of the Income Tax Act of 1922, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) was set up in 1941. Initially, it has 3 benches in Delhi, Bombay, and Calcutta. Currently, the tribunal has 63 benches across the country. It is the oldest tribunal in the country. Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) deals with appeals under the direct taxes act, namely the Income Tax Act of 1961.

Water Dispute Tribunal

Under the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act of 1956, the Parliament has formed several Water Dispute tribunals for the adjudication of disputes related to the waters of Inter-State rivers.

National Green Tribunal

Under the National Green Tribunal Act of 2010, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), was formed on 18 October 2010 as a statutory body for the effective and speedy disposal of cases related to the conservation & protection of the environment, forests, and other natural resources.

Armed Forces Tribunal

Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) is a military tribunal established in India under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act of 2007. It settles up disputes and complaints related to the commission, appointments, enrolments, and service conditions of the personnel in the armed forces. Its Principle Bench is located in New Delhi. It also has Regional Benches at Chandigarh, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi, Lucknow, Guwahati, and Jaipur.

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