Tribunal reforms: SC laments passage of Bill sans debate

By: |
August 17, 2021 2:30 AM

A bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana said that “in spite of all that (court directions), few days back we have seen, the ordinance which was struck down has been re-enacted. We are not commenting on Parliament proceedings.”

“We are upset... but we don't want confrontation with the government," the CJI told Mehta, who said that “government doesn't want confrontation either.”“We are upset... but we don't want confrontation with the government," the CJI told Mehta, who said that “government doesn't want confrontation either.”

Expressing displeasure over the ‘disturbing trend’ of the government not complying with its directions, the Supreme Court on Monday hit out at the Centre for passing the Tribunals Reforms Bill 2021 without any proper debate in Parliament and re-enacting its provisions that were struck down by it earlier.

A bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana said that “in spite of all that (court directions), few days back we have seen, the ordinance which was struck down has been re-enacted. We are not commenting on Parliament proceedings.”

The apex court said that it was not challenging the Parliament’s jurisdiction or its wisdom to frame laws, but noted the provisions of the Bill, which was introduced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament on August 2, were similar to those that were struck down by another bench presided over by Justice LN Rao last month in a separate judgment concerning appointments in tribunals.

“Of course, the legislature has prerogative to make laws. In spite of the ordinance being struck down by the court, the Bill has been passed. There was no debate. We are not saying anything about Parliament’s power…. But at least we must know the reasons of the government in introducing the Bill… the Honourable Minister has but just one word… Can you show us the records giving the reasons for which the Bill was placed in the Parliament? Can you show us what was discussed about the Bill before it was passed?… This is a serious issue,” Chief Justice Ramana told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

The provisions of the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021, which was passed by the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on August 3 and August 9, respectively, are similar to certain provisions of the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance 2021 that was declared unconstitutional last month by the top court.

The strong observations come just a day after the CJI lamented the lack of quality debates in Parliament, saying the “sorry state of affairs” was resulting in passing of laws with a “lot of ambiguity and gaps” besides leading to increased litigation.

The CJI said that the dispensation of justice by the tribunals can be effective only when they function independent of executive control, and this would make them credible and would also generate public confidence. “We have noticed a disturbing trend of the government not implementing directions issued by court,” the judges told Mehta

The CJI asked whether the government was moving towards closing down the tribunals… “We have a simple question for you… Are you planning to continue with the tribunals or close them down? Everything comes down to this question,” the CJI asked the government.

Mehta told the CJI-led Bench that the process was on for appointments to the Central Administrative Tribunal. He said that the Bill has matured into an Act. It was passed by the Parliament in its “wisdom”.

Finally, the top court gave 10 days time to the government to make appointments to the tribunals and cautioned it about the consequences.

Meanwhile, Congress MP Jairam Ramesh on Monday approached the SC challenging the Tribunals Reforms Act, saying it abrogated the principle of judicial independence in a deliberate attempt to override the apex court’s judgement.

He asked the court to declare the Act, which received the Presidential assent on August 13, as unconstitutional and ultra vires of Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution. The statute was enacted with the objective, “to abolish certain tribunals and authorities and to provide a mechanism for filing appeal directly to the commercial court or the High Court” and also “reduce the burden on public exchequer”.

“The Act contains various provisions that are identical in nature to those in the Tribunals ordinance that were set aside by this court in the case of Madras Bar Association-IV-2021,” his plea stated.

Get live Stock Prices from BSE, NSE, US Market and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, Check out latest IPO News, Best Performing IPOs, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Financial Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel and stay updated with the latest Biz news and updates.

Next Stories
1Hyderabad man, suspect in minor’s rape and murder, found dead on railway tracks after minister’s ‘encounter’ threat
2Bhupendra Patel Cabinet Ministers Swearing-in Live: First meeting of new council of ministers today at Gandhinagar
3Kanhaiya Kumar meets Rahul Gandhi, likely to join Congress soon; Jignesh Mevani may be next