Government notifies the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021 – overrides Apex court decision w.r.t. age limit of members

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The Central Government has notified the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021 (“the Tribunals Act”), which was passed by Lok Sabha on August 03, 2021 and Rajya Sabha on August 09, 2021, now got assent of the President of India on August 13, 2021. The Tribunals Act seeks to dissolve eight existing appellate bodies and transfer their functions (such as adjudication of appeals) to other existing judicial bodies as under:

Acts

Existing Body New Body

The Cinematograph Act, 1952

Appellate Tribunal

High Court

The Trade Marks Act, 1999

Appellate Board

High Court

The Copyright Act, 1957

Appellate Board

Commercial Court or the Commercial Division of a High Court*

The Customs Act, 1962

Authority for Advance Rulings

High Court
The Patents Act, 1970 Appellate Board

High Court

The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994

Airport Appellate Tribunal

  • Central Government, for disputes arising from the disposal of properties left on airport premises by unauthorised occupants.
  • High Court, for appeals against orders of an eviction officer.

The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002

Airport Appellate Tribunal

Civil Court#

The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999

Appellate Board

High Court

Note:

* Constituted under the Commercial Courts Act, 2015;

# Refers to a Civil Court of original jurisdiction in a district and includes the High Court in exercise of its ordinary original civil jurisdiction

Certain provisions of the Tribunals Act are discussed as under:

Amendments to the Finance Act, 2017:

Section 183 and 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 merged tribunals based on domain.  It also empowered the Central Government to notify rules on: (i) composition of search-cum-selection committees, (ii) qualifications of tribunal members, and (iii) their terms and conditions of service (such as their removal and salaries).

Section 29 of the Tribunals Act removes these provisions from the Finance Act, 2017.  Rather provisions w.r.t. composition of selection committees, and term of office have been included in the Act itself.  Qualification of members, and other terms and conditions of service will be notified by the Central Government.

Search-cum-selection committees:

The Committee will consist of:

  1. The Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court Judge nominated by him, as the Chairperson (with casting vote),
  2. Two Secretaries nominated by the Central Government,
  3. The sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired Supreme Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court, and
  4. The Secretary of the Ministry under which the Tribunal is constituted (with no voting right).

The Chairperson and Members of the Tribunals mentioned above, will be appointed by the Central Government on the recommendation of a Search-cum-Selection Committee.

Further, state administrative tribunals will have separate search-cum-selection committees.

Eligibility and term of office:

Section 3 of the Tribunals Act provides for a four-year term of office with maximum age being 70 years for the Chairperson and 67 years for members.  However, minimum age must be 50 years for appointment of either a chairperson or a member.

The age limit criteria is contrary to the Supreme Court’s decision, wherein it has reiterated that all members should be appointed at a young age. In 2020, it had also stated that advocates with at least ten years of experience should be considered for appointment as judges.

The Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021 can be accessed at: http://www.a2ztaxcorp.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Tribunals-Reforms-Act-2021.pdf

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