Prelims level : Polity / Governance – Supreme Court Mains level : GS II - Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e- governance- applications.
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  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the numerous tribunals, once meant to lighten the burden of high courts across the country, have now become virtually non-functional,crippled by a chronic lack of infrastructure, manpower and an irregular appointment mechanism.

Tribunals in India:

  • Tribunals were added in the Constitution by Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 as Part XIV-A, which has only two articles viz. 323-A and 323-B. While article 323-A deals with Administrative Tribunals; article 323-B deals with tribunals for other matters.
  • In general sense, the ‘tribunals’ are not courts of normal jurisdiction, but they have very specific and predefined work area.
  • The administrative tribunals are not original invention of the Indian Political System. They are well established in all democratic countries of Europe as well as United States of America.

Armed Forces Tribunal

Principal Bench – New Delhi

  • Benches: Mumbai, Lucknow, Chennai, Kochi, Jaipur, Guwahati, Kolkata, and Chandigarh The AFT or armed Tribunal was established for the settlement of the disputes and grievances about appointments, commission, staffing and service situations in respect of those concealed by the Three Services Act, and hearing of appeals budding out of orders, verdicts or sentences of court-martial. The tribunal will have appellate jurisdiction in court- martial matters and original jurisdiction in service matters.

National Green Tribunal

Principal Bench – New Delhi

  • Benches: Kolkata, Chennai, Bhopal and Pune
  • The National Green Tribunal / NGT is set up for the effective and speedy clearance of cases relating to environmental protection and preservation of forests and other natural resources comprising an implementation of any legal right concerning to environment and giving assistance and compensation of damages to individuals and property and for problems related therewith.

Central administrative tribunal

Principal bench – New Delhi

  • Benches: Jabalpur, Ahmedabad, Ranchi, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Mumbai, , Cuttack, Nagpur, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Cochin, jodhpur, Jaipur, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Gwalior, Indore, Chennai, Patna, and Allahabad. The Central Administrative Tribunal is set up for settlement of disputes with respect to recruitment and conditions of service of individuals appointed to public services and posts in association with the affairs of the Union or other local establishments within the territory of India or under the control of Government of India and for matters related therewith. This was done in the enactment of the amendment of Constitution of India by Articles 323A.

Railway Claims Tribunal

Principal Bench – New Delhi

  • Benches: Chennai, Ahmedabad, Secunderabad, Bhubaneswar, Calcutta, Ernakulam, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Nagpur, Guwahati, Bangalore, Ghaziabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Mumbai, Patna, and Gorakhpur
  • Railway Claims Tribunal was established for the quick arbitration, giving assistance to rail users by way of prompt payment of reimbursement to the fatalities of rail accident or unfortunate incident, repayment of fare and freight and compensation to those whose good are mislaid while with railways.

Drawbacks in functioning of Tribunals

  • Tribunals operate under the thumb of parent administrative ministries against whom many of them are meant to pass orders, therefore remaining at their mercy with visible and invisible strings for facilities, infrastructure and also rule-making.
  • The secretary of the said Ministry sits on the panel for selecting and reappointing the adjudicating members and also has a role to play in disciplinary committees. For instance, the defence secretary is a part of the committee for selection and re-appointment of members of the Armed Forces Tribunal, and the said secretary is that very officer against whom all tribunal orders are to be passed.
  • Under the garb of providing cheaper and informal adjudication, appeals have been provided, on very limited grounds, directly to the Supreme Court from some tribunals making access to justice a far call with some litigants accepting injustice rather than challenging orders simply because they cannot afford prohibitive costs of litigation in the apex court. Persons who at times have served as part of the same ministries are appointed as members and who carry with them their own personal experiences and over-familiarity making justice subjective as compared to judges who bear no such baggage and are trained to be objective. A majority of non-judicial members are not legally qualified and hence are not even eligible to appear before such tribunals while they are allowed to exercise judicial functions while sitting on the bench. Some tribunals are not even vested with powers of civil contempt thereby leaving them toothless qua enforcement.
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