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Fill Up Vacancies In Tribunals Without Delay: Supreme Court Directs Centre

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
14 July 2021 4:09 PM GMT
Fill Up Vacancies In Tribunals Without Delay: Supreme Court Directs Centre
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"Access to justice and confidence of the litigant public in impartial justice being administered by tribunals need to be restored."

In its judgment setting aside the provisions in the Tribunals Reforms Ordinance 2021 which fixed the term of members of various tribunals as four years, the Supreme Court called upon the Centre to ensure that all the vacancies in the tribunals are filled up without delay.Existence of large number of vacancies of Members and Chairpersons and the inordinate delay caused in filling them up...

In its judgment setting aside the provisions in the Tribunals Reforms Ordinance 2021 which fixed the term of members of various tribunals as four years, the Supreme Court called upon the Centre to ensure that all the vacancies in the tribunals are filled up without delay.

Existence of large number of vacancies of Members and Chairpersons and the inordinate delay caused in filling them up has resulted in emasculation of the tribunals, Justice L. Nageswara Rao observed in his judgment. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, in his concurring judgment, observed that it is necessary that the Union expedite the process of appointments to tribunals, for 'ensuring swifter, and efficacious justice delivery,'.

Justice Rao made this observation as a 'peroration' of his judgment. He noted thus:

"59.......Existence of large number of vacancies of Members and Chairpersons and the inordinate delay caused in filling them up has resulted in emasculation of the tribunals. The main reason for tribunalisation, which is to provide speedy justice, is not achieved as tribunals are wilting under the unbearable weight of the exploding docket. Undoubtedly, the legislature is free to exercise its power to make laws and the executive is the best judge to decide policy matters. However, it is high time that a serious effort is made by all concerned to ensure that all the vacancies in the tribunals are filled up without delay. Access to justice and confidence of the litigant public in impartial justice being administered by tribunals need to be restored."

Justice Bhat said that in earlier judgment, the Supreme Court had directed the Union 'to make appointments to tribunals within three months from the date on which the Search-cum-Selection Committee completes the selection process and makes its recommendations.' The judge noted the  statistics about vacancies and pendency of cases as follows:

"The  necessity to take action on this is emphasized by the nuts and bolts of the adjudicatory functions of tribunals. As many as 21,259 cases were pending before the National Company Law Tribunal as on 31.12.2020, and 2278 cases were filed before the tribunal under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 during the period of April to December 2020, out of which only 176 have been disposed so far. As on April 2021, the NCLT comprised of its Acting President and a total number of 38 members, out of which 17 are judicial members and 21 are technical members - much below than the sanctioned strength of 63 members.

At the Armed Forces Tribunal, against a sanctioned strength of 34, only 11 members are currently in office – 4 judicial members and 6 administrative members, for the tribunal's 11 benches. Till 28.02.2021, a total of 18,829 cases were pending for disposal; the highest pendency was before the principal bench in Delhi, with 5553 cases, followed by Chandigarh with 4512 cases and Jaipur with 3154 cases.

At the 18 benches of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), only 36 members are in office, against a sanctioned strength of 65.51 Over 48,000 cases are pending disposal at the CAT, with over 28,000 cases pending for 1-5 years. As on 01.03.2021, 72,452 cases were pending before various benches of the CESTAT. Out of a total strength of 26, 18 positions are filled, and 8 vacancies are still open in the 9 benches of the CESTAT.

At the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), only 66 members are in office, out of a sanctioned strength of 12654, and a total of about 88,000 appeals are pending. 24,000 are pending before the Delhi bench, followed by about 16,000 before the Mumbai bench.

At the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), 138105 cases have been filed since inception (i.e. since 1987) out of which 1,16,572 have been disposed of. 21,443 cases are pending. At state commissions, 124559 cases are still pending, and 401184 are pending before district forums. The total pendency is 547186 cases.Out of the 44 benches of the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) and sole Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT), 11 benches have vacancies. As of April 2020, the Railway Claims Tribunal had 25,571 pending cases."

"44. The sheer volume of pendency is an indicator of the substantial judicial functions carried out by tribunals, necessitating that they be manned by efficient, well qualified judicial and technical members. It is necessary that the Union expedite the process of appointments to tribunals, towards ensuring swifter, and efficacious justice delivery.", Justice Bhat added.

Also Read :  'Excludes Young Successful Advocates; Arbitrary & Discriminatory' : Supreme Court Strikes Down Minimum Age Limit Of 50 Years For Appointment As Tribunal Members



Case: Madras Bar Association vs. Union of India [WPC 502 of 2021]
Coram: Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat
Citation: LL 2021 SC 296

Click here to Read/Download Judgment






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