This article is written by Abhishree Paradkar, a student of Symbiosis Law School, Pune
On Monday, 16th August 2021, the Supreme Court of India made serious remarks against the Tribunal’s Reforms Bill, 2021 that had been passed by the Parliament, which re-enacted the same provision which was struck down by the court in the case of the Madras Bar Association.
A bench consisting of the Chief Justice of India asked Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General of India as to why the bill that was introduced had provisions that have been previously invalidated by the court.
Court’s Concern Regarding Tribunal’s Reforms Bill, 2021
The court also observed that the legislators had not been following the repeated directions that were issued by the court for ensuring the proper functioning of the tribunals.
The court said that they were not commenting on the procedures of the parliament, however, it has been observed that the ordinance that had previously been struck down has again been re-enacted. The legislature does indeed have the prerogative to make laws. However, it is the right of the court to be aware of the reason for the government introducing a bill that includes a provision that has already been struck down. The Chief Justice of India also referred to the statements that had been made by the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the debate which were quoted by the news reports.
The finance minister mentioned one statement that said that the courts have not struck down the provisions on the grounds of unconstitutionality. This however poses questions on the function of the bill and as to whether tribunals must continue to function or be closed. He also inquired for the statement of reasons that were prepared by the ministry to be shown to the court.
The Solicitor General responded saying that it would not be proper on his part to respond till the Bill has become an Act. He also added that the case related to tribunals has been looked after by the Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, and therefore, he requested some time to consult with him as well before making a statement.
Court’s Concern on Plea on Vacancies in Tribunals
During the same hearing, the bench also observed that certain vacancies remained unfilled in Tribunals. The Chief Justice of India read out certain observations from a judgment that was made in the previous year by the Madras Bar Association case and he also highlighted and the need to keep the tribunals free from any executive influence.
The CJI, quoting from the Madras Bar Association case, said that, justice can be properly dispensed with by tribunals in an effective manner only when they function independently without any executive control. This makes them credible and it also provides the confidence of the public. It has also been observed that the government is following this disturbing trend of not implementing the directions that have been issued by the Apex Court.
The CJI also quoted a few portions from the judgment that disapproved of legislature making laws that nullified judgments. He said that within certain limits, the legislature is open to amend the provisions of an Act in a retrospective manner and also declare that such law shall be deemed to have been. However, it cannot say that the judgment of a court that has been properly constituted and rendered while exercising its valid powers to be deemed ineffective and the interpretation of such law to be considered in any manner other than that which is declared by the court.
He also read out a chart that showed the vacancies in the tribunals and observed that the court has been receiving an impression that the bureaucracy does not wish for the tribunals to function. Solicitor General informed that he had communicated the concerns of the Apex Court to the central government and assured that progress would be seen within the next 10 days.
In conclusion, the bench made the following observations while hearing the above to pleas-
- Where the plea made by the State Bar Council of Madhya Pradesh against the order of the Delhi High Court differing by six weeks the challenge to the legality and the validity of the notification that was issued by the Union Ministry of Finance which transferred and attached the jurisdiction of the Debt Recovery Tribunal of Jabalpur to Debt Recovery Tribunal of Lucknow due to the absence of the presiding officer at the Debt Recovery Tribunal of Jabalpur.
- Where the plea that was filed by Advocate Amit Sahni sought directions for the constitution of the GST appellate tribunal in New Delhi which, in the interest of justice, is to be looked into on a priority basis as early as possible.