Criticism of the Tribunals Reforms Bill 2021 by the Apex Court

The Supreme Court on 16th August, 2021, criticized the Tribunals Reforms Bill 2021 introduced by the Finance Minister, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, on August 2, 2021, and passed by the Parliament last week. The Bill reenacts the same provisions struck down by the Court in the Madras Bar Association vs Union Of India on 14 July 2021.

The Supreme Court asked the Solicitor General of India why the bill was introduced with the provisions struck down by the Court. CJI NV Ramana said that the Court was not commenting on the Parliament proceedings, but at least the Court must know why they introduced the Bill despite it being struck down by the Court. The CJI said that the Finance Minister replied to the court that it did not strike down the provisions on grounds of unconstitutionality. Further, the CJI went on to say if the statement of reasons made by the Minister can be presented in the Court.

The Solicitor General replied that since the Bill was yet to become an Act, he did not have the authority to give any response. He further requested a time order to consult AG KK Venugopal, so that he could make a statement in the Court. The Court expressed its concerns about the vacancies remaining unfilled in Tribunals. The CJI quoted to the Solicitor General observations from the judgment of the Madras Bar Association case, where the Court concluded how it was necessary to keep Tribunals free of executive influence, and how justice can be achieved only when these Tribunals could function independently of any executive control.

The CJI added some other portions from the same judgment which disapproved of the practice of legislature making laws to nullify judgments. The Solicitor General requested ten more days to make a statement regarding the filling up of vacancies, the CJI replied that enough number of vacancies were given last time too.

The Solicitor General assured that progress can be made in the next ten days as the concerns of the Court were communicated to the Centre. He further added that appointments were “under process”.

CJI replied that they have been hearing these words “under process” for too long and that now these words meant nothing. Further, he gave ten days and hoped that appointments will be completed within these days. The bench said that only because the presence of such issues should not be a hindrance in the way of appointing members to Tribunals, ten more days were given.

Report by Jayseeka Virdi

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