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Do you intend to close tribunals, Supreme Court asks Centre

A view of the Supreme Court of India. File  

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Central government point-blank to come clean on whether it intends to “close” tribunals across the country by not filling up vacancies that have been pending for years.

“The question here is whether you really want these tribunals to continue or do you intend to close them... Is it that the bureaucracy does not want these tribunals?” Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Justice Surya Kant, on the Bench, pointed out that with tribunals defunct and High Courts having no jurisdiction over the areas of law wielded by tribunals, litigants have nowhere to go for justice.

Chief Justice Ramana read out in open court the details of over 200 vacancies in key tribunals, making them redundant in their slow death. The court said over 15 tribunals did not even have presiding officers. Recommendations of names by the selection committees led by sitting Supreme Court judges to fill up the vacancies have been largely ignored by the government.

The CJI, accompanied by Justice Surya Kant, read out the exact vacancies in each tribunal, including the National Green Tribunal, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Central Administrative Tribunal, only to name a few.

Will inform govt: SG

The Solicitor General said he “genuinely shared the Lordships’ concerns”. He assured the court that he would inform the government.

Justice Kant observed, “If you don't want these tribunals, allow us to restore their jurisdictions to the High Courts. On the other hand, if you want these tribunals to continue, fill up the vacancies... You can't take away the right of the people to access justice”.

Chief Justice Ramana said the situation revealed a “very sorry state of affairs”.

Mr. Mehta agreed, saying “something needs to be done speedily”.

Justice Kant said, “Wherever selection committees, presided over by sitting Supreme Court judges, have recommended names, can’t you make those appointments?”.

‘Litigation in SC’

Mr. Mehta submitted that appointments may have been held up due to litigation in the Supreme Court.

Justice Kant said the litigation was about the tenure of the members of the tribunals. The government could have gone ahead with the appointments regardless of the litigation and later fixed the tenure subject to the final outcome of the litigation.

Chief Justice Ramana told Mr. Mehta categorically, “We are very serious here. If you do not act, we will invite your top officers... your top officers in the country”.

The Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and the GST Council in a PIL plea filed by advocate Amit Sahni seeking the constitution of national and regional GST tribunals.

The court listed the case for hearing on August 16.


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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 6:09:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/do-you-intend-to-close-tribunals-sc-asks-centre/article35760655.ece

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