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Tribunals should not function as another department under the control of the executive: Supreme Court

Dispensation of justice by the Tribunals can be effective only when they function independently of any executive control: this renders them credible and generates public confidence. Also, these tribunals are expected to be consistent, and therefore, adhere to their precedents, inasmuch as they oversee regulatory behaviour in several key areas of the economy. Therefore, it is crucial that these tribunals are run by a robust mix of experts, i.e. those with experience in policy in the relevant field, and those with judicial or legal experience and competence in such fields was held in the case of Madras Bar Association vs Union of India, Writ Petition (C) No.804 of 2020 by the bench comprising Justice L.Nageshwar Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat.

The core controversy arising for this Court’s consideration is the constitutional validity of the “Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities [Qualification, Experience and Other Conditions of Service of Members] Rules, 2020”.  This judgment is to be read as a sequel, and together with the decision of the Constitution Bench in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Limited. This Court is once again, within the span of a year, called upon to decide the constitutionality of various provisions concerning the selection, appointment, tenure, conditions of service, and ancillary matters relating to various tribunals, 19 in number, which act in aid of the judicial branch.

The Court held in the case that,

  1. The 2020 Rules shall be amended to make advocates with an experience of at least 10 years eligible for appointment as judicial members in the Tribunals.
  2. The members of the Indian Legal Service shall be eligible for appointment as judicial members in the Tribunals, provided that they fulfil the criteria applicable to advocates subject to suitability to be assessed by the Search-cum-Selection Committee on the basis of their experience and knowledge in the specialized branch of law
  3. The 2020 Rules shall have prospective effect and will be applicable from 12.02.2020, as per Rule 1(2) of the 2020 Rules.
  4. In view of the interim orders passed by the Court in Rojer Mathew, appointments made during the pendency of Rojer Mathew were also governed by the parent Acts and Rules.
  5. Appointments made prior to the 2017 Rules are governed by the parent Acts and Rules which established the concerned Tribunals. In view of the interim orders passed by the Court in Rojer Mathew, appointments made during the pendency of Rojer Mathew were also governed by the parent Acts and Rules.

The Writ Petitions, Transfer Petitions, Civil Appeals and all the Applications are disposed of by this Court.

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