NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a decision taken by the central government on August 2, 2019 to abolish the Odisha Administrative Tribunal, saying the order does not leave litigants without a remedy or without a forum to adjudicate the disputes as the High Court was available and dealing with pending cases with greater ease.
A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli dismissed the petition filed by the Odisha Administrative Tribunal Bar Association challenging the Orissa High Court's decision of June 7, 2021 which upheld the abolition of OAT.
The bench pointed out Article 323-A of the Constitution does not preclude the Union Government from abolishing such tribunals because it is an enabling provision which confers the Centre with the power to establish an administrative tribunal at its
discretion (upon receiving a request from the relevant State Government in terms of the Administrative Tribunals Act).
"The legal and factual context of the power to establish administrative tribunals, the purpose of this power and the intention of the legislature establish that there is no duty to exercise the power conferred by the Administrative Tribunals Act, such that the enabling provision becomes a mandatory provision," the bench said.
It also said the Union Government acted in valid exercise of its powers when it invoked Section 21 of the General Clauses Act read with Section 4(2) of the Administrative Tribunals Act to rescind the notification establishing the OAT because the decision to establish the OAT was an administrative decision and not a quasi-judicial decision.
"The notification dated 2 August 2019 by which the OAT was abolished is not violative of Article 14 of the Constitution. The State Government did not consider any irrelevant or extraneous factors while arriving at the decision to request the Union Government to abolish the OAT. The decision to abolish the OAT is itself not absurd or so unreasonable that no reasonable person would have taken it," the bench said.
The court also said the principles of natural justice were not violated because the class of people who were affected by the decision to abolish the OAT did not have a right to be heard.
"The public at large (or some sections of it) did not have a right to be heard before the policy decision was taken," it said.
The court also rejected the contention that the Union Government had become functus officio after establishing the OAT, saying the doctrine cannot ordinarily be applied in cases where the government is formulating and implementing a policy.
"The notification is valid though it is not expressed in the name of the President of India because non-compliance with Article 77 of the Constitution does not invalidate a notification or render it unconstitutional," the bench further said.
The court also pointed out the abolition of the OAT is not violative of the fundamental right of access to justice because the Orissa High Court will hear cases which were pending before the OAT prior to its abolition.
The court, however, directed the Ministry of Law and Justice is directed to conduct a judicial impact assessment as directed by in Rojer Mathew case.