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Constitutionality Of Administrative Tribunals In India

Administrative Tribunals

Administrative Tribunals have been known to provide effective and timely justice. The judicial functions have been delegated to tribunals under different acts and statutes in India such as Article 323-A and 323-B (Part XIV-A) of the Indian Constitution as well as the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985.It is due to this ability that the benches of Administrative Tribunals have increased from 5 to 17 over some time. The growing importance of the same for providing justice has resulted in questioning the constitutionality of these quasi-judicial bodies. The landmark cases of S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India[i] and L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India[ii] have been focused upon while explaining the extent of the constitutionality of such tribunals.

Administrative Tribunals and Their Benefits

 The concept of the Administrative Tribunal wasn’t a part of the constitution before 1976 was governed by the British enactment of Tribunals and Inquired Act 1958. Though the constitution mentioned the term “tribunal” in the constitution, the establishment and working of the same was laid down after the 42nd amendment which was made in 1976 through Part XIV-A. Article 323-A[iii] talks about the “establishment of administrative tribunals” to adjudicate matters related to the service of public servants. The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985[iv] as well as the Central Administrative Tribunal comprising of 5 benches, owe their existence to Article 323-A.

Administrative Tribunals have a lot of advantages as compared to the traditional court system in India. They are comparatively flexible, cheaper, and resource-saving. The procedure established is also much easier than the one followed in courts. Hence, the administrative tribunal provides an effective law mechanism by ensuring speedy justice and reducing the pendency of cases. Furthermore, the process is less time consuming than that of courts and therefore helps in saving valuable resources. The advantages have not gone unnoticed, and thus the numbers of benches have increased, proving the need for more administrative tribunals.

Judicial Regime of Constitutionality of Administrative Tribunals 

The Constitutional validity of the aforementioned act of 1985 was challenged before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the landmark case of S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India[v]. The ground for the challenge was on the basis that “the exclusion of judicial review of the High Court violated the basic structure of the Constitution”[vi]. The court in this case was of the view that the constitution can be amended by the parliament and an effective judicial review can be substituted in case of a High Court. The case was not concerned with Article 323-A and only focused upon the act. Further in another case of Union of India v. Parmanand[vii], the authority of the tribunals to decide upon the service rules constitutionality was held to be valid in nature.

In the landmark case of L.Chandra Kumar v. Union of India[viii], the court was of the view that Article 323A 2(d) was unconstitutional to the point where in the jurisdiction of the HCs as well as the SC was excluded. The court also held that the tribunals were not at an equal pedestal as the HCs, the matter before the tribunals can be appealed before a bench of two or more judges of the HC. This was thus contrary to the Sampath Kumar judgment which put the two of them on the same pedestal. Further, the SC also said that these tribunals under 323-A and 323-B have the power to “examine the constitutionality of an enactment or rule concerning matters on Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the constitution”[ix].

It is to be noted that the decision in Sampath Kumar did not overrule the decision in L. Chandra Kumar, just another facet of the same was discussed and elaborated by the apex court. The purpose for which the administrative tribunals were set up was also upheld by the Supreme Court in both cases.

Constitutionality of the Administrative Tribunals 

The constitutionality of the Administrative Tribunals has been questioned in many cases some of which have been elaborated upon in the previous questions. Further, the Supreme Court has also laid down certain guidelines while answering questions such as:
  •  The tribunals and High Courts are not to be placed on the same pedestal, i.e. the tribunals are not substitutes of the high court. A matter presented before the administrative tribunal is appealable before a two-judge bench of the jurisdictional High Court. 
  •  The tribunals are unconstitutional to the point where they eliminate the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and High Court under Article 32 and 226 of the Indian Constitution. 
  • The tribunals have the authority to examine the validity of various statutes except the one through which they have been established i.e. the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985. 
  • The tribunals have the initial jurisdiction for the matters which they have been established. The litigant doesn’t have the right to move to a High Court directly when there is a tribunal which deals with that area of law. This has been done to reduce the number of pending cases before the High court and to ensure timely justice.
Thus the Supreme Court by throwing light upon these points has clarified the constitutionality of the administrative tribunals and has also made it easier for a layman to understand the procedure of the same. The Sampath Kumar case thus lays down the guidelines and serves as a backbone for the constitutionality of the tribunals.


The Administrative Tribunals are gaining importance due to their speedy justice without compromising on the essence of the same. The jurisdiction as well as the scope of the tribunals have already been established by the Supreme Court and various High Courts through various cases. They are unconstitutional to the extent they exclude the HC and SC jurisdiction enshrined under Article 32, 226, and 227 of the Indian Constitution, furthermore they do not have the power to examine the constitutional validity of the statutes establishing them. Moreover, the tribunals are not on the same pedestal as a High Court and therefore the decisions of these tribunals are appealable before the High Courts. Thus providing an effective alternative, to appeal in case it does not suit the need of the individuals. Administrative Tribunals hold a promising future after some reforms are made in the existing system.
[i] S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India, AIR 1987 SC 386. 
[ii] L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 1125.
[iii] Art. 323-A, The Constitution of India, 1950.
[iv] The Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, Act No. 13, Acts of Parliament, 1985.
[v] Supra, Note 1.
[vi] I.P. Massey, Administrative Law (9th Ed., Eastern Book Company)
[vii] Union of India v. Parmanand, AIR 1989 SC 1185.
[viii] Supra, Note 2.
[ix] K.C. Joshi, Constitutional Status of Tribunals, Journal of the Indian Law Institute, 116, 117 (1999). 

This blog is authored by -Akanksha Goel

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