Notwithstanding the repeated red-flagging by the Supreme Court, excessive Tribunalisation, with the eagerness of the executive to give it impetus, slowly and surely threatens the judicial fabric of our democracy with the creation of parallel extra-judicial super courts. These are now dangerously hovering over the citizenry with a life of their own without being effectively amenable to the regular judicial set-up of the Westminster model.
The recent statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over functioning of Tribunals vis-a-vis regular Courts rightly created a lot of buzz and was reflective of the concerns of jurists, lawyers, litigants and bar associations over the functioning of Tribunals. The Tribunals in their present form do not inspire confidence of stakeholders and end up as post-retirement sinecures or a case of ‘dangling carrots’ rather than the noble aim of rendering justice in the form of public service to the community.
To take a few examples, many Tribunals function under those very ministries against whom they have to pass orders. The Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) and the Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT) function under the Ministry of Finance, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) functions under the Ministry of Defence while the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) functions under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (IT). These Ministries not only control Tribunals with invisible strings but also with tangibles such as infrastructure, finance, salaries and staff along with the rule-making power.