SC Seeks Centre’s View On Conferring Jurisdiction Of Tribunals To Specified Courts, Opening Access To Justice Facilitation Centres & More [Read Order]
The Supreme Court has asked the Centre four important questions vis-à-vis the working of tribunals across the country.
Earlier, the bench had made an observation that the structure of tribunals may need revisit taking into account the suggestion for permanent cadre, autonomous selection procedure, autonomous accountability and disciplinary mechanism and finality, subject only to jurisdiction of constitutional courts, to uphold the rule of law and independence of judiciary.
The Centre was asked to respond to the suggestions submitted by amicus curiae. As the Additional Solicitor General sought more time, the bench asked him to respond to the following issues:
Can Jurisdiction of Single Seat Tribunal be conferred on specified court in each state?
The bench asked the Centre: “How to remedy the handicap in access to justice when a Tribunal has only one seat for its working to the exclusion of jurisdiction of all other courts in the country as noted in Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited v Essar Power Limited.”
In that case, the SC bench had observed: “It may also be noted that in some Tribunals (For example, the tribunal constituted under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997), the Tribunal exercises original jurisdiction to the exclusion of all courts and is located only at Delhi. It may further be noted that normally tenure of office of the Chairman and members is of short duration of three to five years. Access to justice may not be, thus, available with the convenience with which it is available when jurisdiction is with the local civil courts sought to be substituted. Such provisions may need review in larger public interest and for providing access to justice.”
The bench then enquired whether in such cases jurisdiction of the tribunal can be conferred on a specified court nominated by the high court in each of the state or, where work of such nature may be insignificant in some states, on one officer in more than one state.
Access to Justice Facilitation Centres to offer e-filing to distant tribunals
The court also enquired ‘Whether ‘Access to Justice Facilitation Centres’ (AJFCs), with or without private participation, can be set up at convenient locations in the country from where a party can access a Court or Tribunal located at long distance with or without payment of such specified charges’.
The court said such centres may also have facilities for e-filing and such other services as may facilitate a party for participation in proceedings. This may enhance access to justice and obviate need for travelling long distances, particularly if such parties are in remote areas, it said.
Can tribunals be manned by existing courts pending filing up of vacancies?
The bench asked: Whether in absence of availability of suitable persons of statutorily prescribed qualifications to man Tribunals/Commissions, pending filling up of vacancies, such Tribunals/Commissions can be manned by existing courts in consultation with the High Courts. Needless to say that servicing officers are duly selected and accountable in the matter of performance and discipline.
Jurisdiction of commission like Human Rights Commission be conferred to courts in each districts
The bench further enquired: “Whether power of Commissions/Tribunals having overlapping jurisdiction such as Human Rights Commissions, having only one seat in a State, can be conferred on specified courts in one or more districts, in addition to or in substitution of such Commission, so as to make access to justice available at the grassroots.”
Posting the matter on 2nd of May, the bench asked the Union of India to file affidavit before 30th April
Read the Order Here