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The need for tribunals in India

May 09, 2024

The need for tribunals in India


  1. Introduction: -

    India, a country known for its rich history and diverse culture, possesses a legal framework that reflects its complex societal fabric. The legal system in India is primarily based on a mixture of customary law, religious personal laws, and modern legal enactments. The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, serves as the supreme law of the land and provides the foundation for the country’s legal structure. It establishes India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, ensuring justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity for all its citizens. The Constitution also delineates the distribution of legislative powers between the central government and the states, laying down fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy. In addition to the Constitution, India’s legal system encompasses various statutes and regulations enacted by the central and state governments. These laws cover a broad spectrum of subjects including criminal law, civil law, family law, labor law, taxation, environmental regulations, intellectual property rights, and more. The Parliament of India is responsible for enacting laws at the national level, while state legislatures have authority over certain matters within their respective jurisdictions. The Indian legal system also draws from judicial precedents set by the higher courts, particularly the Supreme Court of India, which plays a pivotal role in interpreting laws and upholding constitutional principles. Furthermore, India maintains a unique legal landscape due to the coexistence of personal laws governing different religious communities. Personal laws relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and succession are largely based on religious customs and traditions. For instance, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and others are governed by their respective personal laws in matters of family and personal relations. In recent years, India has witnessed significant legal reforms aimed at modernizing the justice system, enhancing access to justice, and ensuring the rule of law. Efforts have been made to streamline legal procedures, promote alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and strengthen the protection of human rights. Despite ongoing challenges such as judicial backlog and implementation gaps, India’s legal system continues to evolve, reflecting the country’s commitment to democratic governance and the pursuit of justice for all its citizens.

    Legal system in India: The legal system in India has a rich historical background that has evolved over centuries. Here’s a brief overview:

Ancient India:

The legal system in ancient India was characterized by a complex system of laws and principles derived from religious texts like the Vedas, Manusmriti, and Arthashastra. Kings and rulers were often responsible for administering justice based on these texts. The legal system in ancient India was characterized by a rich and diverse framework that evolved over millennia. At its core were the Dharmashastras, ancient texts that provided guidelines for ethical conduct, social norms, and legal principles. One of the most influential texts was the Manusmriti, which outlined laws governing various aspects of society, including governance, marriage, inheritance, and criminal justice. These texts reflected the societal values and norms of the time, emphasizing duties (dharma) based on one’s varna (social class) and ashrama (stage of life).The administration of justice was decentralized, with local courts (Nyayalayas) presided over by judges (Nyaya-adhikari) responsible for resolving disputes and administering laws. Higher appeals were heard in the king’s court (Rajasa). The legal system encompassed civil, criminal, and administrative laws, addressing issues such as property rights, contracts, and penalties for offenses. The legal process involved evidence, witnesses, and legal arguments, with judges interpreting and applying legal principles based on societal customs and norms. Punishments were designed not only to penalize but also to deter and reform. The influence of religion was profound, with legal principles often intertwined with Hindu religious beliefs and rituals, emphasizing concepts of righteousness (dharma) and societal duties. Local variations existed, with different regions and kingdoms having their own customary laws and legal practices, contributing to the complexity and diversity of the ancient Indian legal system. This legal framework played a significant role in shaping societal structures, governance, and individual conduct, reflecting the interconnectedness of law, religion, and culture in ancient India.

Medieval Period:

During this period, Islamic legal principles influenced the legal system in regions ruled by various Islamic dynasties like the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. Islamic law, or Sharia, was applied in matters related to personal law among Muslim communities. During the medieval period in India, the formation and evolution of laws underwent significant changes influenced by various rulers and their respective legal systems. One of the pivotal periods was under the Delhi Sultanate, where Islamic law, known as Sharia, began to have a notable impact. The Sultanate rulers introduced Akbari’ Qanun, a system of secular laws governing civil matters. Alongside this, Hindu customary laws continued to be followed in many regions, especially in areas not directly under Muslim rule. The Mughal Empire further contributed to legal development in India. Emperor Akbar’s reign saw the codification of laws through the compilation of the ‘Fatawa-i-Alamgiri’ and ‘Ain-i-. These documents combined elements of Islamic law with local customs and traditions, reflecting the pluralistic nature of the Mughal society. Akbar’s efforts towards religious tolerance also influenced legal attitudes, with a policy of accommodating diverse religious and customary practices. However, the medieval period was not without conflicts and discrepancies in legal systems. Hindu and Islamic legal traditions often coexisted, sometimes leading to challenges in administration and governance. The regional variations and customary laws of different communities added complexity to the legal landscape. Moreover, the British East India Company’s arrival in the seventeenth century introduced English law alongside existing systems, ultimately culminating in the establishment of a uniform legal framework during British colonial rule. In summary, the medieval period in India witnessed a dynamic evolution of legal systems, influenced by the interplay of Hindu customary law, Islamic jurisprudence, and later, European legal principles. This period laid the groundwork for subsequent legal reforms and the eventual codification of laws in modern India.

Colonial Era:

The British colonial rule significantly shaped India’s modern legal system. The British introduced a formalized legal system based on English common law, which was administered through courts established under the Charter Act of 1833. The introduction of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in 1898, and the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) in 1908 laid down the foundation of the modern legal system. The colonial period in India, particularly under British rule, brought about significant changes in the legal landscape of the country. The British East India Company initially operated under a system of dual government, utilizing English common law for European residents and a combination of Muslim and Hindu laws for Indian subjects. However, with the establishment of Crown rule after the Indian Mutiny of 1857, there was a systematic overhaul of legal structures. The British introduced uniform legal codes across India, culminating in the enactment of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in 1861, and the Indian Evidence Act in 1872. These laws aimed to consolidate and streamline legal processes, while also reflecting Victorian moral values and principles. The establishment of High Courts in major cities further solidified British legal influence, providing a centralized judicial system based on English common law. Simultaneously, efforts were made to address local customs and traditions through the introduction of personal laws for different religious communities, such as the Hindu Marriage Act of 1856 and the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937. These laws attempted to navigate the complexities of diverse social and religious practices within the Indian population. The colonial legal system, however, also drew criticism for its discriminatory practices, particularly in areas such as land tenure and taxation, which often favored British interests over those of the Indian population. Furthermore, the enforcement of colonial laws sometimes clashed with traditional customs, leading to social unrest and resistance movements like the Indian National Movement, which sought broader reforms and self-governance. Despite its shortcomings, the colonial legal framework established during this period laid the groundwork for the modern legal system in independent India, with subsequent adaptations and reforms shaping India’s legal landscape post-independence.


After gaining independence in 1947, India retained and adapted the legal framework inherited from the British. The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, established India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic, providing the framework for governance and legal rights of citizens. Post-independence India witnessed significant developments and reforms in its legal system aimed at establishing a democratic, secular, and just society. The Constitution of India, adopted in 1950, became the supreme law of the land, providing a comprehensive framework for governance, fundamental rights, and the distribution of powers between the central government and the states. The Constitution also established an independent judiciary with the Supreme Court at its apex, tasked with upholding the rule of law and protecting the rights of citizens. One of the key reforms post- independence was the codification and modernization of laws. The Indian legal system underwent extensive reforms to replace colonial-era laws with indigenous statutes that reflected the aspirations of the newly independent nation. Notable legislative efforts included the Hindu Code Bills aimed at reforming personal laws governing Hindus, the establishment of the Uniform Civil Code to promote gender equality and secularism, and the creation of specialized laws addressing issues such as labor rights, environmental protection, and consumer rights. The judiciary played a crucial role in interpreting and safeguarding the Constitution. Landmark judicial decisions, such as Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala (1973), established the principle of judicial review and upheld the supremacy of the Constitution over parliamentary legislation. The judiciary also played a proactive role in protecting fundamental rights, promoting social justice, and ensuring accountability in governance through public interest litigation. Another significant development was the expansion of legal aid and access to justice. The Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 aimed to provide free legal aid to the marginalized sections of society and promote equal access to justice. Additionally, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as arbitration and mediation, gained popularity as efficient means of resolving disputes outside traditional court systems. However, challenges persist in India’s legal system, including issues of judicial backlog, delays in the administration of justice, and the need for continuous reforms to address evolving societal needs. Efforts are ongoing to enhance transparency, efficiency, and accountability within the legal framework, ensuring that the legal system remains responsive to the diverse and dynamic needs of India’s population.

Current Legal System:

Today, India has a complex legal system comprising various laws, statutes, and regulations. The judiciary is independent and consists of the Supreme Court, High Courts, and subordinate courts. Indian laws encompass civil, criminal, constitutional, and administrative aspects, influenced by both indigenous traditions and modern legal principles. The legal system in India today is a complex framework that encompasses a mix of statutes, judicial precedents, and customary laws. At its core is the Constitution of India, which provides the foundational principles of governance, fundamental rights, and the distribution of powers among various branches of government. The judiciary, Comprising the Supreme Court, High Courts, and subordinate courts, is entrusted with interpreting and upholding the Constitution and laws of the land. The Supreme Court, as the highest judicial authority, has the power of judicial review and plays a pivotal role in safeguarding constitutional values and ensuring the rule of law. Indian law is characterized by a blend of common law principles inherited from British colonial rule and indigenous laws rooted in diverse cultural and religious traditions. Over the years, India has enacted a wide range of statutes covering civil, criminal, commercial, labor, environmental, and family laws. These statutes undergo regular amendments and updates to address emerging legal issues and societal challenges. Additionally, specialized tribunals and authorities have been established to adjudicate specific matters such as taxation, competition, and administrative disputes. The legal profession in India is regulated by the Bar Council of India, which sets standards for legal education, ethics, and professional conduct. Advocates practice law in courts across the country, representing clients in litigation and advisory roles. Legal education is offered by law schools and universities, producing a large pool of legal professionals who contribute to the functioning of the legal system. Despite significant progress, the Indian legal system faces persistent challenges such as backlog of cases, delays in the disposal of litigation, and disparities in access to justice. Efforts are underway to leverage technology for court management and dispute resolution, promote legal literacy among citizens, and streamline judicial processes. Initiatives like e-courts, online case tracking systems, and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms are being implemented to enhance efficiency and transparency in the administration of justice. Overall, the legal system in India continues to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of a rapidly changing society while upholding the principles of justice, equality, and the rule of law.

The legal landscape in India continues to evolve, reflecting its diverse cultural heritage and contemporary needs, while also addressing challenges in ensuring access to justice for all citizens.



  • 2.Current Status of Tribunals of India

Tribunals in India play a crucial role in adjudicating disputes across various sectors, offering specialized expertise and faster resolution compared to traditional courts. However, their effectiveness has been subject to criticism due to issues such as delays, vacancies in judicial and administrative positions, and concerns regarding their independence and accountability. Some key points about the current status of tribunals in India include:

  1. Existence of Multiple Tribunals: India has numerous tribunals established under specific laws to adjudicate disputes in areas such as taxation, administrative law, environment, labor, and consumer protection.
  2. Legal Framework: The functioning of tribunals is governed by specific statutes that outline their jurisdiction, powers, procedures, and composition. These laws also provide for the appointment and removal of tribunal members.
  3. Vacancies and Delays: Tribunals often face challenges related to vacancies in judicial and administrative positions, which can lead to delays in the disposal of cases and affect the quality of justice delivered.
  4. Independence and Accountability: There have been discussions about the need to ensure the independence and accountability of tribunals, particularly regarding their financial autonomy, appointment processes, and mechanisms for oversight and accountability.
  5. Reforms and Amendments: Various committees and expert bodies have proposed reforms to address the issues plaguing tribunals, including suggestions for structural changes, improvements in administrative processes, and measures to enhance the quality and efficiency of adjudication.
  6. Technological Adoption: Some tribunals have started adopting technology-driven solutions such as e-filing, video conferencing, and online case management systems to streamline processes and improve accessibility.
  7. Legal Challenges: The functioning of tribunals has been subject to legal scrutiny, with issues such as the constitutionality of tribunal laws, the scope of their jurisdiction, and the principles of natural justice being raised before the courts.

    Overall, while tribunals play a vital role in India's justice system by providing specialized expertise and faster resolution of disputes, there is ongoing debate and discussion about the need for reforms to address challenges related to their efficiency, independence, accountability, and accessibility. Here after are some famous tribunals that exist in the Indian judicial ecosystem.

    • Administrative Tribunals:

      The Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 led to the establishment of Central Administrative Tribunals (CAT) and State Administrative Tribunals (SATs) to handle disputes related to recruitment, service conditions, and disciplinary matters of government employees. Administrative tribunals in India are specialized quasi-judicial bodies established under specific statutes to adjudicate disputes and grievances related

      to administrative matters. These tribunals provide an alternative forum outside the regular court system for resolving disputes efficiently and with expertise in specific areas of law. The establishment of administrative tribunals aims to expedite the resolution of disputes, reduce the burden on traditional courts, and ensure that cases are decided by members with specialized knowledge in the relevant subject matter. Some key administrative tribunals in India include: Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT): Established under the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, the CAT adjudicates disputes related to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or a State. State Administrative Tribunals (SATs): Several states have their own administrative tribunals similar to the CAT, dealing with matters related to state government employees and public servants. Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT): This tribunal specializes in hearing appeals against orders passed by income tax authorities under the Income Tax Act, 1961.Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT): CESTAT hears appeals against orders passed by authorities under customs, excise, and service tax laws. National Green Tribunal (NGT): Established under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, the NGT deals with cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources. Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB): The IPAB hears appeals related to intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks, and copyright. Administrative tribunals generally have powers similar to those of civil courts, including issuing summons, examining witnesses, and enforcing their decisions. However, their jurisdiction is often limited to matters specified in the enabling statutes, and their decisions are subject to judicial review by higher courts. Despite their intended benefits, concerns exist regarding the efficiency, independence, and effectiveness of administrative tribunals in India, and ongoing efforts are being made to streamline their functioning and enhance their role in the country’s administrative justice system.

      The provisions related to Administrative Tribunals in India are primarily governed by Article 323A and Article 323B of the Constitution.

  1. Article 323 A: This article empowers the Parliament to set up administrative tribunals for the adjudication of disputes and complaints related to recruitment, conditions of service, promotions, etc., of government employees. The tribunals established under this provision have jurisdiction over matters specified by the Parliament.
  2. Article 323 B: This article empowers the state legislatures to set up tribunals for similar purposes within their respective states. The matters over which these state tribunals have jurisdiction are also specified by the state legislature.

    These articles provide the constitutional basis for the establishment and functioning of administrative tribunals in India, both at the central and state levels, to handle disputes and grievances related to administrative matters concerning government employees.

  • Environmental and Pollution Control Tribunals:

    The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established in 2010 to exclusively deal with environmental issues and disputes arising under various environmental laws. In India, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) is the key institution tasked with addressing environmental issues and pollution control through a specialized judicial process. Established in 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act, the NGT serves as a specialized environmental court with dedicated jurisdiction over matters related to environmental protection, conservation of forests, and enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment. The NGT comprises expert member’ with backgrounds in environmental science, law, and administration. It operates through benches located in various regions across India, ensuring accessibility to affected communities. The tribunal’s primary objectives include the effective and expeditious disposal of cases’ relating to environmental protection and conservation. The NGT possesses substantial powers to enforce environmental laws and norms, including those pertaining to air and water pollution, waste management, and conservation of natural resources. It has the authority to issue directions, impose penalties, and even order compensation for environmental damage caused by violators. Apart from the NGT, several State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) operate at the state level to monitor and control pollution within their respective jurisdictions. These boards are responsible for implementing environmental laws and regulations, issuing permits, and conducting inspections to ensure compliance by industries and establishments. The establishment of the NGT and the empowerment of SPCBs reflect India’s commitment to addressing environmental challenges through specialized legal mechanisms and enforcement agencies. However, challenges remain in effective implementation, resource allocation, and coordination between various stakeholders to achieve sustainable environmental management and pollution control nationwide.

  • Company Law Tribunals:

    The Company Law Board was replaced by the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) under the Companies Act, 2013, to resolve company law matters. In India, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) is a specialized quasi-judicial body established under the Companies Act, 2013 to adjudicate corporate disputes and regulate the functioning of companies. The NCLT was set up to consolidate and streamline the resolution of company law cases, including matters related to insolvency and bankruptcy. The primary functions of the NCLT include handling cases involving company mergers, amalgamations, and restructuring, as well as resolving disputes between companies and their stakeholders. The tribunal also has jurisdiction over cases concerning the winding up of companies, oppression and mismanagement, and other corporate governance issues. The NCLT operates through benches located across different states of India,

    ensuring accessibility to litigants and stakeholders. Each bench consists of judicial and technical members who possess expertise in company law, finance, and related domains. The tribunal functions in a manner similar to a civil court, with powers to summon witnesses, receive evidence, and pass orders in accordance with the law. In addition to the NCLT, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) serves as an appellate body for appeals arising from decisions of the NCLT. The NCLAT plays a crucial role in ensuring the consistency and correctness of decisions rendered by the NCLT benches. The establishment of the NCLT and NCLAT represents a significant reform in India’s corporate governance framework, aimed at promoting transparency, efficiency, and accountability in the functioning of companies. These tribunals contribute to the overall ease of doing business in India by providing a specialized forum for resolving complex corporate disputes and facilitating the orderly conduct of corporate affairs. However, like any judicial institution, the effectiveness of the NCLT depends on efficient administration, timely disposal of cases, and continuous adaptation to evolving corporate laws and practices.

  • Debts recovery tribunal:

    Debt Recovery Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body formed under the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions (RDDBFI) Act, 1993 to facilitate recovery of loans by banks and financial institutions to the customers. Orders of the Debt Recovery Tribunal are appealable before the Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunal. Government of India selects the presiding officer in the Tribunal. The Tribunal is based on Debt Recovery Tribunals Act for a debt which is more than Rs 20,00,000. The Jurisdiction extends to whole of India except to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Debt Recovery Tribunal has powers of District Court for any claims before it relating to recovery of Debts. The Recovery officer in the tribunal is responsible to execute the recovery orders sanctioned by the Presiding Officers. DRT is bound to follow the legal procedure by laying emphasis on quick disposal of the cases and efficient and effective disposal of orders. Debt recovery tribunals are set up in 39 places and The debt recovery appellate tribunals are based in 5 places, in India, they are; Mumbai, Delhi,Kolkata, Allahabad, and Chennai .

  • Industrial Tribunal:

    Industrial Tribunal [Sec. 7A]: The appropriate Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute one or more Industrial Tribunals for the adjudication of industrial disputes relating to any matter, whether specified in the Second Schedule or the Third Schedule and for performing such other functions as may be assigned to them under this Act. The Industrial Tribunal is a juridical Tribunal made up of a Chairman and two members (one representing Workers’ interests and the other Employers’ interests) drawn up from separate panels in the case of an Industrial Dispute whilst of a chairman alone in the case of alleged unfair dismissal. It is regulated by the Employment and Industrial Relations Act 2002. The tribunal hears disputes in the public but it may hold private sittings. Statements of Cases are asked of the parties who are then given an opportunity to support their cases by oral pleading.

  • National Tax Tribunal

    The National Tax Tribunal (NTT) was to be a quasi-judicial Appellate Tribunal vested with the power of adjudicating appeals pertaining to ‘substantial questions of law’ arising from the Appellate Tribunals constituted under three statutes – the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Customs Act, 1962, and the Central Excise Act, 1944. The NTT Act, 2005 sought to transfer this jurisdiction over appeals with ‘questions of law’ from the High Courts to the newly created NTT. Appeals from the decisions of the NTT were to lie directly to the Supreme Court in terms of Section 24 of the Act. The NTT was ostensibly created with the object of reducing pendency of arrears that had mounted in High Courts, effect huge tax recovery; bring uniformity in interpretation of tax laws and to replace generalist High Court Judges with specialist NTT members well-versed to deal with complicated tax matters.

  • Other Specialized Tribunals:

    Over the years, various other tribunals have been set up to cater to specific areas such as consumer disputes, intellectual property rights, competition law, etc. In India, specialized tribunals have been established to address specific areas of law efficiently. These tribunals aim to provide specialized expertise and expedited resolution for disputes related to consumer protection, competition law, and intellectual property rights. Consumer Protection Tribunal: India has established State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commissions at the state level and the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) at the national level to resolve consumer disputes. These tribunals have jurisdiction over cases involving unfair trade practices, defective goods, deficiency in services, or other consumer grievances. They offer a quicker and less formal alternative to traditional courts for consumer complaints. Competition Law Tribunal: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) is responsible for enforcing competition law in the country. It has the power to investigate anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position, and regulate mergers and acquisitions. The Competition Appellate Tribunal (COMPAT) was previously responsible for hearing appeals against CCI orders, but it was merged with the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) in 2017. Now, competition law matters are adjudicated by the NCLAT. Intellectual Property Rights Tribunal: India has specialized tribunals for handling intellectual property disputes. These include the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB), which hears appeals related to patents, trademarks, copyright, and geographical indications. The IPAB was constituted to expedite the disposal of IP disputes and to provide technical expertise in resolving complex matters. These specialized tribunals play a crucial role in ensuring effective enforcement and adjudication of specific areas of law, promoting consumer rights, fair competition, and protection of intellectual property in India. Their establishment reflects a commitment to streamlining legal processes and addressing specialized legal issues promptly.


    The evolution of tribunals in India reflects the ongoing efforts to streamline dispute resolution and deliver specialized justice efficiently. However, continual reforms and improvements are necessary to ensure transparency, accountability, and accessibility in the tribunal system.


  1. Benefits of formation of special specific tribunals in India:

The establishment of specialized tribunals in India has been instrumental in alleviating the burden on the traditional judiciary, offering numerous benefits that contribute to a more efficient and effective legal system.

Firstly, tribunals are designed to handle specific categories of disputes such as consumer complaints, competition law matters, and intellectual property disputes. By focusing on these specialized areas, tribunals relieve regular courts of a significant volume of cases, allowing them to concentrate on other complex civil and criminal matters. This targeted approach to case management helps in reducing the backlog of cases in the judiciary, leading to faster resolution of disputes.

Secondly, tribunals often operate with streamlined procedures tailored to their specific subject matter. These procedures are generally less formal and more expeditious compared to traditional court processes. As a result, litigants experience quicker turnaround times in tribunals, promoting efficiency and cost-effectiveness in dispute resolution. This encourages parties to opt for tribunals as a preferred forum for resolving disputes, thereby further reducing the workload on regular courts.

Moreover, the specialized expertise of tribunal members enhances the quality and depth of adjudication in respective areas of law. Tribunals typically comprise experts with domain-specific knowledge, ensuring informed decision-making and nuanced handling of complex legal issues. This expertise contributes to the development of jurisprudence in specialized fields and fosters consistency and predictability in legal outcomes.

Additionally, tribunals often have the flexibility to employ alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation and conciliation. These methods promote amicable settlements outside of formal court proceedings, reducing the strain on both tribunals and the judiciary while fostering a culture of compromise and collaboration among disputing parties. In conclusion we derive that tribunals bring us:

  1. Specialization: Tribunals are composed of experts in specific fields, allowing for specialized adjudication of disputes or issues related to that field. This ensures that decisions are made by law experts with a deep understanding of the subject matter and expertise which they hold in their relevant fields.
  2. Efficiency: Tribunals typically follow streamlined procedures, which can lead to faster resolution of disputes compared to traditional court systems. This helps in reducing backlog and delays in the justice system.
  3. Accessibility: Tribunals are often less formal and less costly than traditional courts, making them more accessible to the general public. This encourages individuals and organizations to seek legal recourse without being deterred by high costs or complex legal procedures.
  4. Expert Decision-making: Since tribunals consist of experts in the relevant field, their decisions are often more informed and nuanced. This can lead to fairer and more accurate outcomes, particularly in cases involving complex technical or specialized knowledge.
  5. Relief to Courts: By handling specific types of cases, tribunals relieve the burden on regular courts, allowing them to focus on other types of cases. This helps in overall judicial efficiency and ensures that resources are allocated appropriately.
  6. Consistency: Tribunals establish precedents and guidelines within their specific areas of jurisdiction, promoting consistency and predictability in decision-making. This helps in ensuring equal treatment of similar cases and maintaining the rule of law.

In summary, the formation of tribunals in India has proven instrumental in easing the burden on the judiciary by offering specialized, efficient, and expert-driven forums for dispute resolution. By diverting specific categories of cases away from regular courts and employing streamlined procedures, tribunals contribute significantly to enhancing access to justice and improving the overall efficiency of the legal system in India.

4. Power of judicial review

Power of judicial review has consistently been held to be a basic feature of the Constitution. Basic features forming core structure of the Constitution cannot be affected otherwise, even the Constitutional amendments would be liable to be struck down. The Constitution confers on the judiciary the power of judicial review which is exclusive in nature. Under the constitution, it is the responsibility of judiciary, to interpret the Constitution and the laws made thereunder. Therefore, defining the contours of constitution of the Tribunals and the judicial control over them is necessary before undertaking any exercise of enacting a law. The term ‘quasi-judicial’ is commonly used to describe certain kinds of powers exercised by ministers or government departments but subject to a degree of judicial control on the manner of their exercise by way of judicial review. It is applied to powers which can be exercised only when certain facts have been found to exist, and it indicates that these facts must be found in conformity with a code of rules called ‘natural justice’. According to Sir Ivor Jennings, “the term ‘quasi- judicial’ appears to regard it as one of a number of pseudo-analytical expressions derived from false premises as to the separation of powers.”

In the case of Sripadagalvaru v. State of Kerala1, the Supreme Court held that, in order to establish that a constitutional provision is an essential feature it must be shown that the same is fundamental and binds the amending powers of the Parliament. The judicial review is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution and its curtailment in any manner would amount to violation of the basic structure of the Constitution.

Let us take an example to better understand this provision. The Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 provides for setting up of a Tribunal and an appellate Tribunal. The Constitutional validity of this Act was challenged in Union of India v. Delhi Bar Association2, wherein the Supreme Court held: ‘It has to be borne in mind that the decision of the Appellate Tribunal is not final, in the sense that the same can be subjected to judicial review by the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution.’

Thus, it is clear that the judicial review among many other important aspect of the basic structure of the Constitution is indispensable and while creating any other mode of adjudication of disputes, the judicial review cannot be compromised with.

  1. The Future of Tribunals

    Recent times have witnessed mushrooming of Tribunals such as COMPAT, IPAB, NGT, NHT, etc. providing adjudicatory mechanism in their respective domains. While questions continue to be raised about the utility of wholesale Tribalization over institutional reforms within the Courts, the trend seems here to stay. As the proliferation of Tribunals reaches a deeper level, newer challenges have been posed to the constitutionality of such setups which have the effect of divesting the Courts of their powers. Let us understand the verdict of the Supreme Court in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India3 wherein it declared the National Tax Tribunals Act 2005 to be unconstitutional.

    The Apex Court while upholding the power of the Parliament to create Tribunals has circumscribed it with limitations aimed at preserving the independence of the judiciary as well as efficacy of such Tribunals. The decision holds key lessons for the future of tribunals in India and goes at the



     foundations of the concept of ‘separation of power’, ‘rule of law’ and ‘judicial review’ in Indian jurisprudence. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court declared the National Tribunals Act, 2005 to be unconstitutional. This was due to the fact that the NTT did not enjoy the same independence and constitutional protections as the High Court’s whose jurisdiction it was substituting. The key points of the main judgment authored by JS Khehar, J. have been summed up below.


    1. National Tax Tribunal did not violate Basic Structure off the Constitution:

      The Supreme Court ‘traveled the ladder of history and law’ and considered its decisions since Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala 4in order to determine the scope of ‘judicial review’ as part of ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. The Court noted that it must not be overlooked that the NTT Act had not transferred any power vested in courts by the Constitution and the power of judicial review vested in the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution had remained intact. The Court therefore found that the NTT did not violate the basic structure

    2. The Parliament is competent to transfer specific jurisdiction of the High Court to Tribunal subject to limitations:

      The Apex Court referred to its decisions in S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India 5and L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India 6 to hold that the Parliament was competent to enact a law transferring the jurisdiction exercised by courts with regard to any specified subject (other than those which are vested in courts by express provisions of the Constitution) to a tribunal provided that that such alternative institutional mechanism was no less effective than the Court it was substituting. Though historically, well before the promulgation of the Constitution, the High Courts have been uninterruptedly exercising the jurisdiction to determine questions of law under the relevant tax legislations, the Supreme Court held that this did not preclude the Parliament from transferring this jurisdiction. But whenever there is such transfer, all conventions/customs/practices of the court sought to be replaced, have to be incorporated in the court/tribunal created. The newly created court/tribunal would have to be established, in consonance with the salient characteristics and standards of the court which is sought to be substituted. More recently in Union of India v. Madras Bar Association7, the fundamental requirements, which need to be kept in mind while transferring adjudicatory functions from courts to tribunals, were further crystallized. Here, it had come to be unequivocally recorded that tribunals vested with judicial should possess the same independence, security and capacity, as the courts which the tribunals are mandated to substitute

    3. National Tax Tribunal lacked independence
  • Manner of Appointment: Section 7 of the NTT Act provided appointment of Chairperson and Members of the Tribunal by a selection committee headed by the Chief Justice of India and the Secretary (Law) and Secretary (Finance). The Apex Court held that since the NTT had been constituted as a replacement of High Courts, the manner of appointment of Chairperson/Members to the NTT will have to be a by procedure similar to that of judges of High Courts. Even otherwise, the Court elaborated, it would be unconstitutional for the Central Government which would be a party in every case before NTT to participate in the selection process. The Court therefore struck down Section 7.
  • Provision for Reappointment: Section 8 of the NTT Act provided for reappointment of Chairpersons and Members of the Tribunal for a period of five years after the initial five year term. The Court held that a provision for reappointment would itself have the effect of undermining the independence of the Chairperson/Members of the NTT since they would be constrained to decide matters in a manner that would ensure their reappointment. The Court thus struck down section 8.
    1. National Tax Tribunal lacked efficacy

The court was not as functional and operational as it was supposed to be.

The decision of the Supreme Court in Madras Bar Association v. Union of India follows and builds upon its earlier decisions to elucidate the fundamental requirements of independence and efficacy which need to be kept in mind while transferring adjudicatory functions from courts to tribunals. More importantly, especially with reference to the concurring judgement, it clarifies the extent of Tribalization that is permissible under our Constitution. The Courts in our country command huge faith and wide respect in the public for their independence and impartiality. It is imperative that the government learn the right lessons from this decision and desist from impinging upon the independence of the judiciary in its overzealous attempts at Tribalization.

Since then, a lot of changes have been made and more tribunals have been introduced in the current scenario it is even more necessary to make sure that more and more specialized tribunals are introduced for speedy and fair trial. The future of tribunals in India is likely to see several key developments:

  1. Efficiency and Streamlining: There will likely be efforts to enhance the efficiency of tribunals by streamlining procedures, reducing delays, and ensuring swift resolution of cases. This could involve the adoption of technology-driven solutions such as e-filing, online case management systems, and virtual hearings to expedite the adjudication process.



  2. Specialization and Expertise: Tribunals may evolve to become more specialized in their respective areas of jurisdiction, ensuring that cases are heard by experts with in-depth knowledge and experience in specific fields such as taxation, environment, labor, and administrative law. This specialization can lead to more informed and nuanced decisions, ultimately improving the quality of justice delivered.
  3. Accessibility and Outreach: Efforts to improve the accessibility of tribunals are likely to continue, with initiatives aimed at reaching underserved populations and ensuring that individuals from all socio-economic backgrounds can effectively access justice. This could involve setting up satellite tribunals in rural areas, providing legal aid and assistance to marginalized communities, and promoting awareness about tribunal processes and rights.
  4. Transparency and Accountability: There may be a push for greater transparency and accountability in the functioning of tribunals, including mechanisms for public scrutiny, regular reporting of performance metrics, and measures to prevent corruption or malpractice. Openness and accountability are essential for maintaining public trust in the judicial system and ensuring the integrity of tribunal decisions.
  5. Jurisdictional Clarity: Addressing jurisdictional overlaps and conflicts between tribunals and regular courts will be a priority to avoid unnecessary delays and confusion in the resolution of disputes. Clear guidelines and mechanisms for determining the appropriate forum for different types of cases will help streamline the legal process and improve the overall efficiency of the justice system.
  6. Adaptation to Technological Advancements: Tribunals are likely to embrace technological advancements such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain to improve case management, automate routine tasks, and enhance decision- making processes. These technologies can help reduce administrative burdens, minimize errors, and increase the speed and accuracy of tribunal proceedings.
  7. Legal Reforms and Legislative Support: Legislative reforms may be introduced to strengthen the institutional framework governing tribunals, clarify their powers and functions, and address any lacunae or ambiguities in existing laws. Comprehensive legal reforms backed by political will and stakeholder consultation will be crucial for ensuring the effective functioning and sustainability of tribunals in India.



The evolution of tribunals has not been without challenges. There have been debates on the constitutional validity, independence, and effectiveness of tribunals, with issues surrounding the appointment process, tenure, and qualifications of tribunal members. The evolution of tribunals in India represents a significant development in the country’s legal framework, aimed at ensuring specialized and efficient resolution of disputes in various domains. The establishment of tribunals began with the intent to relieve the burden on traditional courts and provide expedited justice in specific areas. Legal Framework: The concept of tribunals in India is primarily governed by statutes passed by the Parliament for each specific subject matter. For instance, the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, provides for the establishment of consumer dispute redressal commissions at the district, state, and national levels. Similarly, the Competition Act, 2002, sets up the Competition Commission of India (CCI) and its appellate authority, now merged with the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT). The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) was constituted under the Trade Marks Act, 1999, and the Patents Act, 1970, to hear appeals related to intellectual property rights. Challenges: Despite their intended benefits, the evolution of tribunals in India has also faced several challenges. One major concern is the issue of judicial independence and accountability. Tribunals, although specialized, often lack the same level of independence as regular courts due to administrative control by the executive branch. This can affect their credibility and impartiality. Furthermore, the proliferation of tribunals has led to concerns about overlapping jurisdictions and inconsistent decision-making, leading to confusion and delays in justice delivery. Another challenge is the adequacy of resources and infrastructure. Many tribunals struggle with limited resources, including staffing, budgetary allocations, and technological support, which can hamper their efficiency. Additionally, the appointment process for tribunal members has been a subject of controversy, with debates over the transparency and qualifications of appointees. Moreover, the issue of judicial review and appeal mechanisms has been contentious. The Supreme Court of India has grappled with questions regarding the constitutional validity and powers of tribunals, especially concerning their jurisdiction and the scope of judicial review over their decisions. In recent years, efforts have been made to address some of these challenges. The government has proposed reforms to enhance the functioning of tribunals, including amendments to streamline appointment processes, improve infrastructure, and ensure greater judicial independence. Despite these efforts, the evolution of tribunals remains a dynamic area of legal development in India, marked by ongoing debates and reforms aimed at strengthening their effectiveness and legitimacy within the country’s legal system.

Overall, the future of tribunals in India will be shaped by a combination of technological advancements, legal reforms, and efforts to enhance efficiency, accessibility, transparency, and accountability in the justice system. These developments are essential for upholding the rule of law, protecting individual rights, and fostering trust and confidence in the judiciary.

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