Government proposes to bring bill to slash number of tribunals

By: | Published: February 22, 2017 5:01 PM

The government proposes to bring a bill to slash the number of tribunals from the present 36 to 18 as it feels that most of them are performing identical functions.

The department of legal affairs had recently written to all union ministries and departments to furnish details of tribunals functioning under their administrative control and explain the “possibility of merging the functions of tribunals with some other tribunals”. (Reuters)

The government proposes to bring a bill to slash the number of tribunals from the present 36 to 18 as it feels that most of them are performing identical functions. But the process of reducing the number of tribunals by either merging them or abolishing them will be carried out in phases, sources in the government said.

They said as and when decision is finalised to either merge or abolish a set of tribunals, a bill will be introduced in Parliament. “These tribunals were established by a statute, hence they will be abolished by a statute,” a senior functionary said.

The decision to bring down the number of such bodies from the present 36 to 18 was taken “unanimously” by a group of secretaries last year. The department of legal affairs in the law ministry will be the nodal agency for administration of various tribunals. As of now, the tribunals are handled by various ministries.

A Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had some years ago suggested bringing tribunals under administrative control of the law ministry.

The department of legal affairs had recently written to all union ministries and departments to furnish details of tribunals functioning under their administrative control and explain the “possibility of merging the functions of tribunals with some other tribunals”.

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The law ministry is of the view that there is a possibility that some of the tribunals can be “converged/ merged” to avoid “overlapping/identical functions” being discharged by them.

There are 36 tribunals functioning in the country dealing with subjects such as income tax, electricity, consumer protection, company laws and railway accidents.

Questioning the efficacy of tribunals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in April, 2015 voiced concern over the low rate of disposal of cases by them and said there was a need to ascertain whether these institutions were delivering justice or were acting as a “barrier” to it.

He had said senior judges of the Supreme Court can brainstorm to find out whether the tribunals are actually fast tracking justice delivery or are slowing it down. He made these remarks as most tribunals are headed by retired judges.

Addressing a joint conference of chief justices of high courts and chief ministers here in 2015, Modi had said the budget allocated to run the tribunals can be diverted to courts to strengthen them if it is found that they are not delivering results.

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