8 tribunals face axe amid downsizing

March 23, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 04:11 am IST - NEW DELHI

TDSAT to also hear cyber, PF disputes

The Centre has decided to wind up eight tribunals that currently deal exclusively with disputes pertaining to employees’ provident fund or EPF, Competition law, Airports’ economic regulation, Information Technology law, National highways, railways, copyrights and foreign exchange.

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday approved amendments to this effect in the Finance Bill of 2017 proposed by the Centre, along with changes in the norms for tribunals, appellate tribunals and other boards associated with the administration of 17 central laws.

The major tribunals to be relegated to history include the Competition Appellate Tribunal, whose work will now be transferred to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal; the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority Appellate Tribunal (AERAAT) and the Cyber Appellate Tribunal — whose functions will now be discharged by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

The EPF Appellate Tribunal’s remit would be transferred to the Industrial Tribunal that examines matters under the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947.

Cases under the Foreign Exchange Management Act of 1999 would be transferred from the dedicated tribunal for foreign exchange matters to the Appellate Tribunal constituted under the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act of 1976.

Rationale unclear

“The rationale behind replacing certain tribunals is unclear,” PRS Legislative Research said in a note on the amendments to the Finance Bill. “For example, the TDSAT may not have the expertise to adjudicate matters relating to pricing of airport services,” it pointed out.

Separately, the National Highways Tribunal that deals with disputes under the Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act of 2002 will be wound up.

Highway disputes will now be adjudicated by the Airport Appellate Tribunal set up under the Airport Authority of India Act of 1994, which is distinct from AERAAT.

The Railways Rates Tribunal for hearing matters under the Railways Act of 1989 will also cease to exist, with its workload transferred to the Railway Claims Tribunal set up under a 1987 law.

The Copyright Act of 1957, decisions under which are currently reviewed by the Copyright Board, will now be transferred to the Intellectual Property Appellate Board set up under the Trademarks Act of 1999.

Premature termination

The chairpersons and members of tribunals that are being wound up, will receive three months pay and allowances for the premature termination of their tenure, even as the Finance Bill makes significant changes in the terms of service and rules for appointments of such members and chairpersons in the tribunals that will continue to operate.

Typically, the terms of service of such tribunal heads and members are enshrined in the laws.

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