The setting up of tribunals have come under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court which on Thursday cast doubts as to whether they have achieved the desired objectives or not as competent persons are averse to presiding over them and keen ones are not suitable for such assignments.
“Many retired judges who are fit to be on the tribunals are not interested and those who are keen are not suitable,” a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha observed adding it was like the government creating a parallel justice dispensing machinery in the form of tribunals.
The bench said it was difficult to find a right judicial person for tribunals dealing with specific areas of laws.
While hearing a batch of petitions against the setting up of tribunals, the CJI said that in the last four days, he has received requests for the appointment of four judicial members in various panels, including the Securities Appellate Tribunal.
The bench said earlier it was apex court judges who were preferred to be brought into the scheme of tribunals but with the passage of time, the Chief Justices and judges of High Courts were considered and now, it has gone down to people from administrative backgrounds. It has been contended in a batch of pleas that there was a grave danger that the judiciary will be substituted by a host of quasi-judicial tribunals which function as departments of various ministries.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi sought to defend the creation of tribunals but the court posed several questions to him on the issue.
“Which enactment conferred the tribunals with exclusive power to decide a substantial question of law and if the validity of that Act has been upheld”? the bench, also comprising justices JS Khehar, J Chelameswar, AK Sikri and Rohinton Nariman, asked.
“What are you achieving ultimately? You are making a mockery of the procedure,” it observed as Rohatgi submitted that creation of tribunals has not eclipsed the powers of the high courts under Article 226 of the Constitution.