SC judgement

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down in entirety Rules framed by the government under the Finance Act of 2017 to alter the appointments to 19 key judicial tribunals, including the Central Administrative Tribunal.

The Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi held that the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 suffered from “various infirmities”.

About rules

These Rules formulated by the Central Government under Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017. These rules gave powers to Central government in matters of appointments and postings of Judges in 19 key tribunals. However, such powers give control to executive of judicial bodies namely tribunals in this case. Ideally, the appointments and postings in tribunals should be decided by judiciary.

Passed as money bill

Moreover, 2017 amendment act relating to tribunals was passed as money bill. Chief Justice Gogoi referred to a larger Bench the issue and question whether the 2017 Act could have been passed as a money bill.

The court said a seven-judge Bench should also decide the question whether the Lok Sabha Speaker acted in the right by certifying it as money bill, thus allowing it to circumvent Rajya Sabha.

One of the petitioners in the case and Rajya Sabha MP, Jairam Ramesh, said the passing of the Finance Act 2017 as a money bill was deliberately done to “extend executive control over these institutions (tribunals) by altering the composition of the selection committees and vastly downgrading the qualifications and experience required to staff these bodies”.

Directions by SC

The court ordered the Centre to re-formulate the Rules within six months strictly in conformity with the principles delineated by the Supreme Court

The court further ordered the Union Ministry of Law and Justice to conduct a ‘Judicial Impact Assessment’ of tribunals to analyse the ramifications of the changes caused by the Finance Act, 2017.

The court also directed the Centre to “carry out an appropriate exercise for amalgamation of existing tribunals adopting the test of homogeneity of the subject matters to be dealt with and thereafter constitute adequate number of Benches commensurate with the existing and anticipated volume of work”.

For now, as an interim measure, the Bench directed that the terms and conditions of appointment to the tribunals would be in accordance with the respective statutes which were in place before the enactment of the Finance Bill, 2017.

Source: The Hindu

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance