With many tribunals in the country performing only on paper, the government has given a fresh push to its plans to cut down their numbers from the present over 60 to 23. The move has been initiated after a thorough examination of the functioning of all tribunals, which were created to resolve the grievances of people working in specific and predefined work areas.
The Ministry of Law & Justice, headed by Ravi Shankar Prasad, has divided all “functioning and non-functioning” tribunals into three categories. The tribunals which are in a dormant stage and proving to be a “financial burden” on the exchequer have been listed in the first category. According to sources, a Cabinet note to merge 11 such tribunals have been drafted and it is expected to be tabled in the upcoming Cabinet meeting. Initially, some ministries opposed the move but later they gave their “consent” for the merger after the Law Ministry justified the decision by terming it as the need of the hour to put a check on misuse of government funds and properties, the source said.
The sources further added that the tribunals, which cater to the needs of employees, would remain in their original identity, while those which are playing active roles in offloading the burdens of the judiciary would be closed. “The move has the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and in the coming days ministries and departments will submit their comprehensive plans for the merger of tribunals,” the source said, adding that tribunals like Cyber Appellate Tribunal, which is running without a chairman for the past five years, would be merged or closed. Surprisingly, the Cyber Appellate Tribunal has not resolved or disposed of even a single case despite pending appeals. The mandate of Cyber Appellate Tribunal is to resolve the cases of cyber frauds, which is becoming an order of the day.
The Department of Legal Affairs in the Law Ministry has prepared a comprehensive report on functioning areas of all tribunals with the view that some of the tribunals could be “converged or merged” just to avoid any overlapping or identical functions.
Earlier, the department of revenue in the Finance Ministry had expressed its inability to merge tribunals under it. Appellate Tribunal for Forfeited Property, Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal, Authority for Advance Rulings for Income Tax and Authority for Advance Rulings for Customs and Central Excise are some of the bodies under the Department of Revenue. The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which was established to handle disputes between the employer (government) and employees, particularly recruitment related issues, may get some similar tribunals under the merger plan.