The Prime Minister’s Office is planning to prune the list of all importantnational tribunals and merge some of them to create larger entities and ensure efficiency. There are 35 national tribunals under diverse ministries including the prime corporate arbiter, the Company Law Board, to political sensitive Cauvery Water Tribunal to bureaucracy’s grievance redressal mechanism, the Central Administrative Tribunal.
In a note sent to all secretaries of the Union government on February 18, Law Secretary PK Malhotra wrote, “there is a possibility that some of these tribunals can be converged/merged to avoid overlapping/ identical functions being discharged by these tribunals.
This will not only bring uniformity, efficiency and effectiveness but it will also reduce the number of tribunals in the country.” Malhotra noted that PMO wants all the ministries and departments to have relook at these quasi-judicial tribunals functioning under their administrative control to “examine the possibility of merging these tribunals.” To start with, the law secretary has asked ministries to identify tribunals that could be clubbed together. The law ministry has set a deadline of March 5 for the exercise. The exercise involves each ministry furnishing details of the “number of cases filed and disposed of in the tribunal and the funds sanctioned and spent by the tribunal in the last ten years.
A “proforma” has been sent to each ministry to answer questions about the functioning of the tribunal: “From what date has the tribunal started functioning? What is subject matter jurisdiction of the tribunal? How many benches of the tribunal have been sanctioned by the government? If more than one bench has been sanctioned, please indicate the locations and territorial jurisdictions of other benches” The ministry has also sought information about the number of posts of members of the tribunal, their technical and administrative expertise and their qualifications. The underlying concern behind this move seems to be the slowing down of the decision-making process.
“The powers which are normally vested in the courts were conferred upon these tribunals for quick justice based on the principle of natural justice and also to reduce burden on the regular courts,” says the note. Now, some of these tribunals have become quasi-judicial bottlenecks blocking efficient functioning of the executive..