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Supreme Court reserves judgment on plea challenging Tribunal rules, 2020; expresses inclination to extend tenure

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New Delhi (ILNS): The Supreme Court today reserved its judgment in a plea challenging the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020.

The bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S. Ravindra Bhat has clarified that whenever the term of any Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson or members of the Tribunal is expiring, the same stands extended till December 12, 2020.

During the course of today’s hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal submitted that the apex court that in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Ltd the court had upheld Section 184 of the Finance Act according to which the tenure should not exceed five years.

Venugopal further said: “Reappointment is made by the same selection committee. This is an entirely safe procedure where if a member is writing judgments in time and is working with integrity, then the member can be reappointed.”

With respect to the provision for housing for Tribunal members, the AG submitted that if the members are not accorded with the status of High Court Judges then as per Rojer Mathew case, housing facility cannot be given to such members.

On a plea for a separate Judge on the Search and Selection Committee, the AG submitted: “There are 19 Tribunals. Every time a vacancy arises, it has to be filled then and there. Having one more judge will affect the judicial functioning and judicial time.”

On Justice Nageswara Rao’s suggestion to the Government to revive the National Tribunals Commission as was suggested by the Court in Chander Kumar’s Judgment, the AG insisted that the bench reiterate the suggestion.

Concluding his submissions AG Venugopal submitted that Rules of 2017 were completely struck down and a vacuum was created which was later filled by 2020 Rules.

Senior Counsels Siddharth Luthra and CS Vaidanathan appeared for two applicants.

Senior Advocate AS Chandhiok, appearing for NCLT and NCLAT, urged the bench to protect the appointment of NCLAT chairperson, Justice Bansi Lal Bhat who will retire soon, until the Court passes orders on the petition.  

The Court expressed inclination to extend the tenure of any member whose tenure is about to expire till December 31. The bench has asked all the parties to submit their written submissions.

Read Also: PIL in Supreme Court wants action against policemen who illegally cremated Hathras victim

The bench was hearing a Plea filed by The Madras Bar Association (MBA) challenging the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020, for contravening the principle of separation of powers.

The central government had already notified rules on the same in the year 2017 under the Finance Act, 2017. Both the rules and the act were challenged before the court.

In the case of Rojer Mathew Vs South Indian Bank Ltd., a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court had struck down the rules. These rules, providing the terms and conditions for service of members for at least 19 tribunals, were held to be “overstepping into the powers of the judiciary.”

The PIL states that the 2020 rules are in violation of several orders that upheld the non-interference of the executive in the appointments of the judiciary.

-ILNS

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