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Anurag Singh Thakur being the Minister of State for Finance introduced a bill in Lok Sabha for abolishing some tribunals where the public at large is not litigant. The bill proposes to provide for a mechanism for filing an appeal directly to the commercial court or the High Court, as the case may be', instead of filing at the tribunals.
The government proposes to wind up five main tribunals which are:
- Airport Appellate Tribunal,
- Authority for Advance Rulings
- Intellectual Property Appellate Board,
- Appellate Tribunal under the Cinematograph Act and
- Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal.
These five tribunals will be abolished if the bill gets approval.
The proposed bill further seeks to amend some acts including these major 5 acts:
- The Cinematograph Act, 1952,
- The Customs Act, 1962,
- The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994,
- The Trade Marks Act, 1999 and
- The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001.
"With a view to streamlining tribunals, the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2021 is proposed to be enacted to abolish certain tribunals and authorities and to provide a mechanism for filing an appeal directly to the commercial court or the High Court, as the case may be," Anurag Singh Thakur quoted the statement of objects and reason.
Such bill has been passed with a view that these tribunals only add to an additional layer of litigation and having separate tribunal means additional administrative action in terms of filling up of various posts and such other matters. Any kind of delay in such administrative actions results in further delay in disposal of cases.
"Reducing the number of tribunals shall not only be beneficial for the public at large, reduce the burden on public exchequer, but also address the issue of shortage of supporting staff of tribunals and infrastructure," Thakur said.
The Bill proposes that all the cases which are pending before such tribunals or authorities would be transferred to the Commercial Court or the High Court on the same appointed dates.
The bill further laid down severance terms for the Chairman and Members of such tribunals. They will be entitled under the bill to claim a compensation of an amount not exceeding three months' pay and allowances for the premature termination of the term of their office or of any contract of service.
The Government of India in the year 2015 began the process of rationalisation of these tribunals. Earlier even in the year 2017 seven tribunals were abolished or merged by the Finance Act, 2017 on the basis of functional similarity. The total number of tribunals was reduced to 19 from 26 at that time.
The rationale which was adopted in the first phase was to abolish tribunals adding no value to their existence and merge those tribunals with those having similar functions.
Then later in the second phase (2021), analysis of data has been taken off the last three years which tells that tribunals in several sectors have not necessarily led to the system of delivering faster justice. They are further at a considerable expense to the exchequer.
"Therefore, further streamlining of tribunals is considered necessary as it would save considerable expense to the exchequer and at the same time, lead to the speedy delivery of justice. Accordingly, it is proposed to abolish some more tribunals and transfer the jurisdiction exercised by them to the High Court," Thakur said.