The Madras Bar Association by way of writ petition in the Supreme Court has challenged the rules formulated in February 2020 known as the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2020 (The Tribunal Rules 2020).
The petition stated that the Tribunal Rules 2020 should be struck down as it poses a threat to Articles 14 (right to equality of law) and 21 (right to life) for being arbitrary and unreasonable against the principles of Separation of powers and independence of judiciary, and is in contravention of previous decisions of the Supreme Court,particularly the one in Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Ltd. Earlier on 9th October, 2020, the bench when reserving the matter for judgment clarified that whenever the term of any Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson or members of the Tribunal is expiring, the same stands extended till December 12, 2020.
The division bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat, directed the Central Government to constitute a National Tribunal Commission for the appointment of members in various Tribunals. The most significant directions given by the bench are following
- Till the constitution of the National Tribunals Commission, a separate wing should be established at the Ministry of Finance to cater to the requirements of tribunals.
- Advocates with experience of 10 years will be eligible for appointment as judicial members in tribunals. Members of Indian Legal Service will also be eligible for appointment as judicial members provided they fulfill the same criteria as advocates.
- The Chief Justice of India or his nominee will have a casting vote in the search committee. The committee will also comprise Secretary to Ministry of Law and Justice and Secretary to Government of India from a department other than the parent or sponsoring department nominated by the cabinet secretary. The secretary of the sponsoring department shall be member secretary without vote.
- In respect of Matters for disciplinary action, the recommendations made by the Search and Selection committee shall be final.
- Appointments to tribunals shall be made within 3 months from the date on which the process is complete and recommendations are made by the search committee.
- The 2020 Rules shall have prospective effect and will be applicable only from February 12, 2020.
- Appointments made prior to 2017 Rules and appointments made during pendency of Rojer Mathew judgment shall be governed by respective statutes.
- Chairpersons, Vice-Chairpersons, and members of tribunals appointed prior to February 12, 2020 shall be governed by parent statute and rules as per which they were appointed.
- 2020 Rules shall be applicable with the modifications laid down in the judgment to those who were appointed after February 12, 2020.