The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its displeasure to the Central Government on the Tribunal’s Bill and issued notice to the Government for not appointing technical members in the Security Appellate Tribunal (SAT).
The bench, led by Chief Justice N. V. Ramana and also comprising Justice Surya Kant and Justice Aniruddha Bose, read the judgement given by Justice Nageshwara Rao in the Madras Bar Association vs Union of India case.
It said, “The tribunals, which are constituted as an alternative mechanism for speedy resolution of disputes, have become non-functional due to the large number of posts which are kept unfilled for a long period of time. Tribunals have become ineffective vehicles of administration of justice, resulting in complete denial of access to justice to the litigant public.
“The conditions of service for appointment to the posts of Chairpersons and Members have been mired in controversy for the past several years, thereby, adversely affecting the basic functioning of tribunals. This Court is aghast to note that some tribunals are on the verge of closure due to the absence of Members. The direction given by this Court for expediting the process of appointment was in the larger interest of administration of justice and to uphold the rule of law,” it added.
CJI Ramana said, “We have not seen any discussion in Parliament. Of course, Parliament has the power to make laws. We must at least know what is the reason for the Government to introduce the Bill, even after this court strikes it down.”
The top court made critical remarks against the Tribunals Reforms Bill 2021 passed by Parliament, re-enacting provisions struck down by the Supreme Court in the Madras Bar Association case.
“At least we must know why the government has introduced the Bill, despite it being struck down by this Court,” said the CJI.
Thereafter, CJI Ramana went on to ask the Solicitor General who was representing the Central Government, the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has just said one sentence, that the court has not struck down the provisions on grounds of unconstitutionality. “What should be made out of this bill? Should tribunals function or be closed?,” asked the CJI.
He also inquired from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, “It is not a bill, which has been brought by a Private Member, the Government has introduced the Bill. The Ministry must have prepared a note for reasons. Can you show us that?”
The Solicitor General said till the Bill has attained the status of an Act; it may not be proper on his part to respond.
The Solicitor General also assured the apex court bench that the appointment in the Tribunal will be made in two weeks and prayed the Court to list the matter after two weeks.
The CJI then pulled up the government and said, “Whenever we ask the Government about the status of the appointment of members in Tribunals, the Government says that the appointment is under process, but no substantial step is taken by the Government.”
However, the bench granted 10 days time to the Central Government to show substantial steps taken by the Government for the appointment of members in various Tribunals.
The apex court also issued notice in the plea, which sought appointment of technical members in the Security Appellate Tribunal (SAT). The plea stated that SAT is working with Judicial Members only and no appointment of Technical members has been done by the Government.