As part of plans to merge some of the tribunals into larger entities to avoid identical functions, the government is looking to converge the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CyAT) and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
Sources in the government on Saturday said that the Cyber Appellate Tribunal is proposed to be merged with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal and a Cabinet note to this effect will be moved shortly. The Cyber Appellate Tribunal adjudicates matter related to Information Technology and is seen carrying much significance at a time when the government is pushing for digital payments. The Cyber Appellate Tribunal, however, has been headless since July 2011.
Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at DigiDhan Mela on Saturday said that the government is “working to rationalise tribunals, merge tribunals. A decision of the Cabinet on it is expected very soon after which it will be resolved.” In response to a letter from Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar with regard to the appointment of chairperson at the Cyber Appellate Tribunal, Prasad said that the position fell vacant on July 1, 2011, and thereafter the Information Technology Ministry came out with advertisement on three occasions but it could not be materialised.
“I have been raising this issue of vacancy in Parliament since 2012 but people have not taken issue of cyber crime and cyber disputes seriously. It is now that the government is proposing to merge the Cyber Appellate Tribunal with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal which is good. Instead of keeping it vacant, it will be start functioning,” Chandrasekhar said.
He said that with the growing number of internet users and government move to push for digital payments, it is extremely important to have cyber dispute settlement mechanism. Seeking to cut red tape, an inter-ministerial group of secretaries has “unanimously” agreed to reduce the number of tribunals from 36 to 18 as the government feels that most of these bodies are performing “identical functions”.
The Department of Legal Affairs in the Law ministry will be the nodal agency for administration of various tribunals. As of now, the tribunals are handled by various ministries. The sources said the merger of tribunals will be implemented in a phased manner.
A Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had some years ago suggested bringing tribunals under administrative control of the Law Ministry. The Department of Legal Affairs had recently written to all Union ministries and departments to furnish details of tribunals functioning under their administrative control and explain the “possibility of merging the functions of tribunals with some other tribunals”.
There are 36 tribunals functioning in the country dealing with subjects such as income tax, electricity, consumer protection, company laws and railway accidents. Questioning the efficacy of tribunals, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently voiced concern over the low rate of disposal of cases by them and said there was a need to ascertain whether these institutions were delivering justice or were acting as a “barrier” in it.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Saturday said nearly 10 lakh people have received training in digital payment system in the last four days. “We have a web portal which was set up around 4 days ago on digital payment training. As per latest data, 10 lakh people have registered for it out of 9.5 lakh have been trained, 31,000 shopkeepers have been trained across 476 districts,” Prasad said at FICCI’s 89th AGM.