Administrative Tribunals

Quest for UPSC CSE Panels

Administrative Tribunals-Image




GS-II: Governance

GS-II: Polity

1 min read

Prelims:   Indian Polity and Governance – Constitution, Political System, Panchayati Raj, Public Policy, Rights Issues, etc.

Mains:  Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies


What is an Administrative Tribunal?

An Administrative tribunal is a  quasi-judicial  institution that deals with problems, such as resolving administrative disputes. 

  • In 1976, The Swaran Singh Committee recommended the establishment of Administrative Tribunals for the adjudication of matters related to administration disputes.
  • The proceedings of administrative tribunals are deemed to be judicial proceedings, and they have the powers of a civil court overall service matters.
  • It performs a number of functions like adjudicating disputes for recruitment, transfers, posting, service conditions, reviewing an existing administrative decision, and so forth.
  • The creation of administrative tribunals aimed to ease the workload of courts related to service matters and quick decision-making.


What are the salient features of administrative tribunals in India?

Some of the salient features of administrative tribunals in India are

  • Principles of natural justice: Administrative tribunals in India follow the principle of natural justice, which requires that all parties to a legal proceeding be given a fair and impartial hearing and that no person should be a judge in their own cause. 
  • Not bound by Civil Procedure Code (CPC): Unlike traditional courts, they are not bound by the strict rules of procedure and evidence set out in the CPC.
  • Subject expertise: A significant part of administrative tribunals is comprised of members who have specialized expertise in the subject matter over which they have jurisdiction.
  • Quasi-judicial powers: Administrative tribunals can hear evidence, examine witnesses, make findings of fact, apply the law to the facts, and make binding decisions.
  • Appellate authority: The decisions of administrative tribunals can be appealed to a higher court. The decision of administrative tribunals in the first instance can be appealed to the appellate authority and, later, to the High Courts and/or Supreme Court.
  • Time-bound resolution: The adjudicatory process in administrative tribunals is usually faster than the traditional court system, which helps resolve disputes more quickly and efficiently.


What are the constitutional and legal provisions pertaining to Administrative Tribunals in India?

  • The original Constitution did not contain provisions with respect to administrative tribunals. The 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 added a new Part XIV-A to the Constitution. This part is entitled ‘Tribunals’ and consists of Article 323A and Article 323B.
    • Article 323A deals with administrative tribunals 


  Provision                             Description
Article 323AIt empowers the Parliament to provide for the establishment of administrative tribunals for the adjudication of disputes relating to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services of the Centre, the states, local bodies, public corporations and other public authorities.
Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985In relation to Article 323 A, The Parliament enacted the Administrative Tribunals Act in 1985, which empowers the Central government to establish the Central Administrative Tribunal and state-level administrative tribunals. This Act opened a new chapter in the sphere of providing speedy and inexpensive justice to the aggrieved public servants. 

Table: Constitutional and Legal Provisions related to Administrative Tribunals


What are the different types of administrative tribunals in India?

Some of the major administrative tribunals are as follows:

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)

  • Benches
    • At present, it has 19 regular benches, 17 of which operate at the principal seats of high courts and the remaining two at Jaipur and Lucknow. These benches also hold circuit sittings at other seats of the High Courts. 
  • Jurisdiction
    • Original jurisdiction: with respect to recruitment and all service matters of public servants, All-India services, the Central civil services, civil posts under the Centre, and civilian employees of defense services. 
    • Exemption: The members of the defense forces, officers and servants of the Supreme Court, and the secretarial staff of the Parliament are not covered by it.
  • Composition 
    • Criteria: The members are selected from both the legal and administrative fields to benefit from the expertise in these two domains. 
    • Qualification: The Chairperson must be a sitting or retired judge of the High Court. Tribunals rules 2021 specify that a person with at least three years of experience as the Judicial Member or Administrative Member may be appointed as the Chairman.
    • Strength: CAT has a sanctioned strength of 70 Members, including the Chairman (35 Judicial and 35 Administrative). As per the Tribunal Rules, 2021, Chairman can be either Judicial Member or Administrative Member.
    • With the amendment in Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 in 2006, the members have been given the status of judges of High Courts. They are drawn from both judicial and administrative streams and are appointed by the President.
  • Functioning
    • The CAT is not bound by the procedure laid down in the Civil Procedure Code of 1908. It is guided by the principles of natural justice. These principles keep the CAT flexible in approach.
    • Only a nominal fee of 50 is to be paid by the applicant. The applicant may appear either in person or through a lawyer.
  • Appeals against CAT orders
    • In the Chandra Kumar Case (1997), the Supreme Court declared that the appeal against the decision of CAT can be held in the respective High Court first, rather than altogether bypassing the High Court and filing an appeal directly in Supreme Court.


State Administrative Tribunals (SATs)

  • The Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 empowers the Central government to establish State Administrative Tribunals (SATs) at the specific request of the concerned state governments.
  • Like the CAT, the SATs exercise original jurisdiction in relation to recruitment and all service matters of state government employees.
  • There shall be a selection committee of the concerned state government for the purpose of selection of members of the concerned SAT.
  • The chairman and members of the SATs are appointed by the President after consultation with the Governor of the state concerned.

Joint Administrative Tribunal (JAT)

  • The Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 also makes a provision for setting up Joint Administrative Tribunal (JAT) for two or more states. A JAT exercises all the jurisdiction and powers exercisable by the administrative tribunals for such states.
  • The chairman and members of a JAT are appointed by the President after consultation with the Governors of the concerned states.


What are various issues faced by administrative tribunals in India? 

There are several issues faced by administrative tribunals in India, which include:

  • Not set up by all the states: There are only 9 states which have set up State Administrative Tribunals (SATs). Those are Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala.
  • Autonomy: The members of administrative tribunals such as CAT are eligible for reappointment. It may affect the autonomy of members in adjudicating disputes.
  • Administrative concerns: There is non-uniformity in the appointment process, qualification of members, age of retirement, resources, and infrastructure of different tribunals working under different ministries, which hampers their overall efficiency.
  • Lack of constitutional protection: The members of administrative tribunals do not enjoy the same constitutional protection as High Court or Supreme Court judges.




What are the provisions of the new rules for tribunals passed in 2020? 

  • The 'Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal, and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020' were framed by the Ministry of Finance in exercising powers under Section 184 of the Finance Act 2017.
  • These rules replace the 2017 Rules, which were struck down by the Supreme Court, which directed the government to re-formulate the rules in conformity with the principles delineated by the court.
  • Provisions of the New Rules:
    • These apply to 19 Tribunals, including Central Administrative Tribunals, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Customs, Excise, Service Tax Appellate Tribunals, etc.
    • Foreigners Tribunals are not covered.
    • Appointment: Appointments to the above Tribunals will be made by the Central Government on the recommendations of the "Search cum Selection Committee".
    • Removal: The search Cum Selection Committee has the power to recommend the removal of a member and also to conduct inquiries into allegations of misconduct by a member.
    • Qualifications for tribunal members: Only persons having judicial or legal experience are eligible for appointment.
    • Term: Rules also provide a fixed term of four years to the Tribunal members.
    • Independence: The condition in the 2017 Rules (which were set aside by Court) that the members will be eligible for re-appointment has also been dropped in the 2020 Rules.


What measures can ensure the effective functioning of administrative tribunals?

Here are some suggestions to address the issues related to tribunals in India:

  • National Tribunal Commission: The 74th report of the Parliamentary standing committee on Law recommended the creation of a National Tribunal Commission (NTC) to regulate issues linked with tribunals such as oversee the selection process, set eligibility criteria for appointment, etc.
  • Common nodal authority under Department of Personnel & Training: to monitor the working of administrative tribunals as well as ensure uniformity in the appointment, tenure, and service conditions of all members.
  • Tribunals in states: Each and every state should set up SAT in order to address the administrative disputes of state government employees.
  • Regional presence:  Tribunals such as CAT should set up benches in each state, ideally where the High Court is situated, to ensure easy access to justice. 
  • Timely and transparent appointments: It is important to ensure that appointments to tribunals are made in a timely manner to avoid delays and promote fairness in the justice delivery system.



Previous Year Questions(PYQs)



Q1) How far do you agree with the view that tribunals curtail the jurisdiction of ordinary courts? In view of the above, discuss the constitutional validity and competency of the tribunals in India. (2018)


Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)


Q) Did the original constitution contain provisions for administrative tribunals?

No. The original constitution did not provide any provisions relating to administrative tribunals. It was added through the 42nd constitutional amendment in 1976.


Q) Are the decisions of the Administrative tribunal binding?

The decisions of administrative tribunals are binding. However, one can file an appeal against the decision of the administrative tribunal in high courts and the Supreme Court.