Growing economic prosperity often proliferates human needs which results in a conflict of interest and increase in civil or commercial litigation. Also due to the socio-economic advancements people are becoming more aware of their rights and have gained courage to approach courts for justice. As a result of increased disputes and litigations courts are struggling with the backlog of cases. It becomes challenging for the judicial system to cope with the enormous caseload and, thus, the judicial system becomes overburdened. In order to cut down the “docket explosion” and the problem of backlog of cases tribunals were set up.
Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies or administrative bodies that run parallel to the court and resolve disputes. The goal for establishing Tribunals is to relieve the burden of traditional courts, to speed up decisions and to provide a forum which would consist of both judicial and non-judicial members. Tribunals are set up for providing a speedier, less expensive and more informal process for resolving disputes between parties.
There is no proper definition of the word “Tribunal” and it is not defined by any statute. In case of Durga Shankar Mehtha v. Raghuraj Singh, the Supreme Court expressed that the word ‘Tribunal’ referred in Article 136 does not mean the same thing as ‘court’ but includes within its ambit, all adjudicating bodies provided they are constituted by the state and invested with judicial as distinguished from administrative or executive functions.
In case of Associated Cement Companies Ltd. V. P.N. Sharma, the Supreme Court held that the tribunal is an adjudicating body which decides controversies between the parties and exercises judicial powers as distinguished from purely administrative functions and possesses some of the trappings of a court, but not all.
Initially the Indian Constitution did not contain any provisions relating to the tribunals. It was the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 by virtue of which the provisions for the establishment of tribunals were interested in the Constitution. The 42nd Amendment inserted Part XIV-A titled as “Tribunals” containing Articles 323-A and 323-B in the Constitution of India.
Article 323-A of the Indian Constitution states that the Parliament has the power to establish the administrative tribunals. Thus, in accordance with Article 323-A of the Indian Constitution, the Parliament passed the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.
A court can be defined as an institution that is set up for adjudication of legal disputes. It is a judicial body that is established by the Constitution which administers justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law.
It may also be defined as a person or body of persons which have authority to hear and resolve disputes of civil, criminal, or administrative nature.
The Indian judicial system is divided into following courts:
- Supreme court: The Supreme Court of India is the apex court. It is the final court of appeal and the highest constitutional court as it has the power of constitutional review. It was established under Part V, Chapter IV of the Constitution of India. It has authority to protect the rights of the citizens, and to uphold the Constitution of India and the values of rule of law. Thus, the Supreme Court is the Guardian of Indian Constitution.
- District courts : District Courts of India are established by the State Governments of India for every district or for one or more districts based on the number of cases and population density in the district. District Courts are directly administered by High Court and are bound by the judgments of High Court.
- High courts: High Courts are the highest court in every state and union territory. High Court have the power to hear appeal from subordinate courts and power to interpret Constitution and has power of judicial review. High Courts are able to exercise civil or criminal jurisdiction if the subordinate courts in the state are not competent to try the matters.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRIBUNALS AND COURTS
There are two main forums for resolving a legal dispute: a court of law and a tribunal and therefore, both must be differentiated:
- A court is an organ of the traditional judicial system and is entirely a separate and independent organ. On the other hand, a tribunal is the creation of the statute and is endowed with judicial powers.
- The courts have power to decide all matters unless there cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred. On the other hand, tribunals can decide only those matters which are conferred on them by the statutes. Thus, the powers and jurisdiction of tribunals are governed by statute.
- Courts are bound to follow the rules of evidence and procedure. On the other hand, the Tribunals are not obliged to follow such rules, however, tribunals are bound to follow the Principle of Natural Justice while deciding a matter.
- The judges of the courts must have expertise in law, while as, it is not necessary that the members Tribunals need to be experts in law. They can have expertise in the administrative matters. Thus, the Tribunals can consist of both judicial as well as non-judicial members.
- Courts are bound by the principles of res judicata and estoppel, while as, tribunals are not strictly bound by these principles.
- Courts follow a formal proceeding. On the other hand, in a tribunal proceeding, there is usually no provision for the exchange of formal pleadings, such as a statement of claim or defence. Unlike courts, tribunals often accept hearsay evidence and unsworn testimony.
The growth of the commercial ventures as well as the expansion of governmental activities in various fields have given rise to the need for utilising the services of persons who have specialised knowledge in order to provide effective and faster dispensation of justice. In order to satisfy this need the tribunals were set up for relieving the workload of the traditional courts by expediting the justice delivery process.
Although the tribunals and courts differ in various aspects, both are essential for the process of delivering of justice.
- Durga Shankar Mehtha v. Raghuraj Singh, A.I.R. 1954 S.C. 520.
- Associated Cement Companies Ltd. v. P.N. Sharma, A.I.R. 1965 S.C. 1595.
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