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'You Are Testing The Patience Of Court; No Respect For Our Judgments' : Supreme Court Raps Centre Over Tribunals Reforms Act

Srishti Ojha
6 Sep 2021 5:52 AM GMT
You Are Testing The Patience Of Court; No Respect For Our Judgments : Supreme Court Raps Centre Over Tribunals Reforms Act
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The Supreme Court on Monday harshly criticized the Union Government over the delay in filling up of the vacancies in Tribunals and also for passing Tribunals Reforms Act, which the Court termed a "virtual replica of the provisions struck down by the Court".A special bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao conveyed to the...

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The Supreme Court on Monday harshly criticized the Union Government over the delay in filling up of the vacancies in Tribunals and also for passing Tribunals Reforms Act, which the Court termed a "virtual replica of the provisions struck down by the Court".

A special bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao conveyed to the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta the extreme displeasure of the Court regarding the state of affairs of the Tribunals.

"There is no respect to judgments of this court. You are testing our patience! How many persons were appointed? You said some persons were appointed? Where are the appointments?", the CJI observed at the outset.

"The Tribunals Act is virtually a replica of the provisions struck down by this Court in the Madras Bar Association", Justice Chandrachud added.

Justice Nageswara Rao, who authored the last two Madras Bar Association judgments, sought to know from the Solicitor General why the appointments have not been made in line with the various directions passed by the Court.

"You are emasculating these Tribunals by not appointing members. Many Tribunals are on the verge of closing down", Justice Rao said.

The CJI said that the Court is "extremely upset" with the situation.

"We have only three options. One, we stay the legislation. Two, we close down the Tribunals and give the powers to the High Court. Three, we ourselves make the appointments", the CJI added.

Justice Chandrachud observed that the functioning of Tribunals like NCLT and NCLAT have been stalled due to the lack of members.

"NCLT and NCLAT  are critical for the country's economy. Because of the vacancies, NCLT and NCLAT are not able to adhere to the timeline. With NCLT and NCLAT not being manned, a critical situation has arisen. Same situation remains with the AFTs", Justice Chandrachud remarked.

The Solicitor General requested for 2-3 days time to get back. He read out the instructions received from the the Ministry of Finance which stated the final decision on the recommendations made by the Search-cum-Selection Committees will be made within two weeks.

The bench posted the matter to next Monday, saying "we expect appointments to be done by then".

The bench also issued notice on a writ petition filed by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh challenging the Tribunals Reforms Act 2021. Senior Advocate Dr AM Manu Singhvi, appearing for Ramesh, pointed out to the bench the provisions in the Act which are the re-enactment of the very same provisions struck down by the Court.

"If you don't have faith on two judges of the supreme court then we have no options. We are not going to give much credence to the subsequent legislation. The Madras Bar Association decision was passed after hearing Attorney General. Despite this, if you are not honouring the judgment. What is this?", the CJI remarked.

Justice Chandrachud said that while the legislature can take away the basis of a judgment, it cannot pass a law which is contrary to a judgment.

"You can't enact a law directly contrary to SC's judgement", Justice Chandrachud said.

"Every one knows what the law is. Government also knows it. No use of this debate", the CJI added.

Ultimately, the bench posted the matters to next Monday.

"We are not interested in or inviting any confrontation. We are listing it next Monday. By that time see appointments are made", the CJI said while adjourning the matters. The Solicitor General agreed to convey to the Ministry the views of the Court.

During the previous hearing on August 6, the CJI had read out a chart of the vacancies of Tribunals and had observed that the Court is getting the impression that bureaucracy does not want the Tribunals to function.

Cases : Delhi Bar Association v. Union of India, Jairam Ramesh v. Union of India and State Bar Council of MP v. Union of India)

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