The Telangana High Court has directed the Government to urgently take necessary concrete proactive steps for imparting training to the Officers of various departments, like the Cooperative Department, Revenue Department, Labour Department and Commercial Tax Department etc., who discharge quasi judicial functions to avoid procedural irregularities and for proper dispensation of justice while the disputes are resolved in a manner established by law.
Justice K. Lakshman was considering a writ petition of a cooperative bank to quash an order of the Cooperative Tribunal (under the Telangana Cooperative Societies Act) in a case of irregularities and misappropriation committed by certain employees of the bank.
The Single Judge noted a number of lapses on the part of the Tribunal in terms of maintainability of the dispute under the Act; exercise of discretion of review, principles of natural justice; adjudication of issues relating to jurisdiction; correction of date of order on the docket, even when the Member was not on the bench on the date, amounting to falsification of court records.
Noting that the Administrative Member of the Cooperative Tribunal, who was the Additional Registrar of Cooperative Department, did not follow the procedure established by law, did not maintain the docket properly and no reasons were assigned in orders, the bench observed that the said mistakes/irregularities may be due to lack of proper training and lack of judicial approach.
"The assignment entrusted to the learned Member of the 4th respondent Tribunal is an important assignment. She has to maintain the docket, pass orders in I.As. and also pass orders in the main appeals along with the Chairman of the Tribunal", said the Judge.
The bench expressed that it is high time that the Government has to initiate steps to impart proper training to the Members, who are not below the rank of Additional Registrar from the Cooperative Department, as these officials are being appointed as Members of the Cooperative Tribunals.
"They are being assigned with the important assignments of discharging the functions on par with a Judicial Officer, which includes maintaining of dockets and passing of orders in interlocutory applications and also hearing of appeals and passing of orders along with the Chairman of the Tribunal", reflected the bench, adding that though such an important assignment is entrusted to the officials of the Cooperative Department, no training is imparted to them much less judicial training.
The bench noted that under the Telangana Cooperative Societies Act, several quasi- judicial functions are entrusted to the officers of the Cooperative Department without giving any training to them. They are passing orders/awards under the provisions of the Act by recording evidence, considering the pleadings of the parties including the judgments cited by the parties, which are important assignments in the Cooperative Department. "The orders passed go a long way to streamline the Co-Operative Societies and have a long time effect upon the co-operative movement, culture and spirit", remarked the Single Judge.
Likewise, the Court noted that similar quasi-judicial functions are also assigned to the officers of the Revenue Department under the Revenue laws, Labour Department officials under various Labour Laws, officials of Tax department under various Tax Laws, the Revenue Divisional Officers working in Scheduled Areas under Agency Laws, Land Transfer Regulations etc. "Appropriate training, sensitization, befitting the functions they discharge as Adjudicating Officers seems to be lacking", observed the bench.
Stating that the Revenue Officials, like Tahsildars, Revenue Divisional Officers and Joint Collectors have been discharging various quasi- judicial functions under Revenue Laws, the bench noted that the said orders are subject to judicial scrutiny by High Courts in judicial review and in many cases, the High Courts also, considering the fact that there are concurrent findings of the said quasi-judicial officers, are dismissing the writ petitions on the ground of concurrent findings. "Thus, the said officials have been discharging important quasi-judicial functions pertain to property rights of citizens", commented the bench.
It appreciated that the Officials of Labour Department have been discharging quasi-judicial functions under various Labour Laws including the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 and Employees Compensation Act, 1923 (formerly known as Workmen's Compensation Act) etc. They are also recording evidence and passing orders. "An order passed by the Assistant Commissioner of Labour under the provisions of Employees Compensation Act is subject to judicial scrutiny by the High Court in judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Thus, virtually an order passed by an untrained Officer is being subjected to judicial scrutiny by a High Court Judge. Even for the said officials also, there is no training regarding the basic concepts of adjudicatory process both procedural and content wise", the Single Judge expressed.
Likewise, the court commented that the officials of the Commercial Tax Department have been discharging various quasi-judicial functions and the proceedings which involve complicated questions of law, like limitation, application of principle etc. and also involve huge amounts, and for them also, there is no serious training befitting the important issues they adjudicate.
"Under Agency Laws, in Scheduled Areas, the Revenue Divisional Officers concerned have been assigned with suits to be tried and pass decrees which involve complicated questions of law, preparation of dockets and passing of decrees by appreciation of principles etc. Even for them, there is no proper substantial training though they decide the issue of lives of Tribunal Communities", the judgment points out.
The judgment appreciates that the High Courts are appointing Judicial Officers including Junior Civil Judges and District Judges by issuing notification, conducting written tests and oral tests from eligible candidates. After selection, High Courts are imparting training to them in the Judicial Academy on various aspects. There are several programmes to fine tune the adjudicating skills of the serving Judicial Officers, an Academy is established and functioning for the said purpose. Moreover, the National Judicial Academy at Bhopal has been conducting seminars, workshops etc., on various legal topics to even the High Court Judges so as to enable them to be fully appraised of current trends and new legal issues.
The bench acknowledged that the Law Commission of India in its 186th Report made certain proposals for appointment of Authorities under Environmental Laws. In the said report, recommendation was made to appoint Authorities who are having requisite knowledge and expertise in the field. It was made clear that training should be given to them. The Law Commission considered various aspects of the inexperience of the quasi-judicial officials, authorities appointed in various institutions including Environmental Authorities.