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A constitution bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices NV Ramana, DY Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Gupta today began hearing a petition filed by the Madras Bar Association challenging the creation of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) under the Companies Act, 2013.

Senior Advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that infrastructure and recruitment in tribunals requires extensive consideration of this court.

Agreeing with Datar, the CJI noted that most of the tribunals across the country are understaffed and under-equipped and are virtually non-functional. The CJI also cited the example of various high courts where bail applications are listed after a long haul of four weeks due to the massive judicial backlog. Echoing the same view, Justice Chandrachud said: “Recruitment is not properly regulated in tribunals…the presiding officer has no control over non-judicial staff…”, and gave the example of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) to drive home his point. Justice Chandrachud also said that non-judicial members, along with judicial members, play an important role in the administration of tribunals.

In an interesting turn of events, Attorney General KK Venugopal, while making his arguments, submitted that names for appointment of members of the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) and Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT) are pending before the apex court for approval. The CJI then summoned the Registrar who informed the Court that the proposal was received only three days ago.

–India Legal Bureau

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