The Supreme Court on Friday said the mounting arrears in the tribunals is mainly due to the delay in filling up the vacancies of their presiding officers and members, and directed the Centre set up an independent National Tribunals Commission (NTC) to supervise appointments and functioning.
The top court emphasised that the NTC should conduct disciplinary proceedings against members of tribunals and also take care of administrative and infrastructural needs of the tribunals.
A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat said: “Dispensation of justice by the Tribunals can be effective only when they function independent of any executive control: this renders them credible and generates public confidence.”
The bench noted that the pendency of cases in the tribunals is increasing mainly due to the lack of personnel, which is due to the delay in filling up the vacancies as and when they arise due to the retirement of the members.
It also said it has noticed a disturbing trend of the government not implementing the directions issued by this court.
“To ensure that the Tribunals should not function as another department under the control of the executive, repeated directions have been issued which have gone unheeded forcing the petitioner to approach this Court time and again,” it observed, noting that it is high time to put an end to this practice.
The bench stressed that there is an imperative need to ensure that the tribunals discharge their judicial functions without any interference of the executive whether directly or indirectly, and ordered that a separate wing in the Ministry of Finance shall be established to cater to the requirements of tribunals, till the NTC is constituted.
The observations made by the top court came on a clutch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the ‘Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualification, Experience and Other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020.
The top court said it has been repeatedly urging the Centre to set up a single umbrella organisation which would be an independent body to supervise the functioning of the tribunals and ensure that the independence of the members of the tribunals is maintained.
The bench said till amendments are carried out in 2020 Rules, the search-cum-selection committees should comprise of Chief Justice or his nominee as the chairperson and others, including the outgoing Chairman or President of the tribunal in case of appointment of Chairman or President, and the Law Secretary.