Mergers of Tribunals in new Finance Bill could take away independent functioning

The issue with the mergers and takeovers of Tribunals is that the independent functioning of some of them could stop soon.

Updated - March 25, 2017 04:22 pm IST

Published - March 25, 2017 04:19 pm IST

A view of the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Thursday.

A view of the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Thursday.

Under The Finance Bill, 2017, Tribunals and Appellate Tribunals that fall under eight different laws are now to be replaced or will be taken over by existing Tribunals. The existing Tribunals that will subsume these themselves fall under seven other Acts, which otherwise will not fall under the purview of the Finance Bill.

These are:

- The Competition Appellate Tribunal under The Competition Act, 2002, will be taken over by the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal;

- Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal under The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008

- The Cyber Appellate Tribunal under The Information Technology Act, 2000 will be replaced by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal;

- The National Highways Tribunal under The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002 will be taken over by the Airport Appellate Tribunal;

- The Employees Provident Fund Appellate Tribunal under The Employees Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 will now be replaced by the Industrial Tribunal;

- The Copyright Board under The Copyright Act, 1957 will now be taken over by the Intellectual Property Appellate Board;

- The Railways Rates Tribunal under The Railways Act, 1989 will be replaced by the Railway Claims Tribunal; and

- The Appellate Tribunal for Foreign Exchange under The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 will now fall under the Appellate Tribunal.

The issue with the mergers and takeovers of such Tribunals is that the independent functioning of some of them could stop soon. The Supreme Court in 2014, while ruling on the National Tax Tribunal case, said that Tribunals have powers similar to those of High Courts and the judiciary, and that quasi-judicial Tribunals could function as departments of various Ministries.

The Centre is usually a party to disputes brought before quite a few of these Tribunals, for instance, like the Railways Rates Tribunal. The Centre is also the authority in appointing people to head these Tribunals, leading to a clear conflict of interest in the introduction and facilitation of takeovers of these bodies.

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