Supreme Court on Monday rapped the Centre government over complete inaction for filling up the vacancies in Tribunals. The three-judge bench also came down heavily for enacting the Tribunals Reforms Act and called it a “virtual replica of the provisions struck down by the Court in Madras Bar Association”.
The three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice DY Chandrachud, and Justice L Nageswara Rao has posted the matter for September 13 “we expect appointments to be done by then”.
“There is no respect to judgments of this court. You are testing our patience! How many persons were appointed? You said some persons were appointed? Where are the appointments?” CJI stated.
“You are emasculating these Tribunals by not appointing members. Many Tribunals are on the verge of closing down,” he added.
“We have only three options. One, we stay the legislation. Two, we close down the Tribunals and give the powers to the High Court. Three, we ourselves make the appointments,” said CJI NV Ramana.
Bureaucracy Doesn’t Want The Tribunals To Function: CJI Ramana
It is not the first time that the apex court is drawing the Centre’s attention to the sorry state of affairs of the tribunals across the nation.
On August 6, CJI hauled up Centre govt over the vacancies in tribunals and also its inaction to fill them stating that it appears bureaucracy does not want these tribunals. The court had asked the govt to apprise it within 10 days about the steps taken regarding the issue.
“Appointments Under Process” Seems Meaningless Now
On August 16, the apex court gave an ultimatum of 10 days to fill up the vacancies.
“For more than a year, whenever our registry asked for the status (from the government), it was told that the appointments are under process. This ‘under process’ has no meaning,” said SC bench when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta repeated the submission that “appointments are in the process”.
Repeated Audacity To Override SC’s Judgment
Supreme Court bench again hauled up the Centre government for enacting the Tribunal Reforms Act which discusses the tenure of a member, age criteria, and composition of the search-cum-selection panel making tribunal appointments.
On August 16 too, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre’s repeated audacity to override the apex court’s judgments to limit the tenure and service conditions of tribunal chairpersons and members.
“We strike down one act and a new one comes… has become a pattern. We can’t give credence to new legislations when earlier instructions are not being paid heed to… We hope you (the Solicitor General) are not telling the government to make legislations one after the other… Maybe bureaucrats do that… but we are very upset,” the court said.
The court has also issued a notice to the Centre govt over a plea filed by Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh seeking directions to declare the Act unconstitutional. The plea filed through senior advocate Manu Singhvi pointed out that the Act seems the re-enactment of the very same provisions struck down by the court earlier.
The petitioner submitted that the Act – which abolishes nine key tribunals – poses a serious threat to judicial independence by giving the government power over appointments, service conditions, and salaries of tribunal members.
In the July 14 Madras Bar Association case judgment, the Supreme Court had insisted on a five-year tenure for chairpersons and struck down the ordinance which prescribes a four-year tenure.
As per the recent data in the chart read out by CJI Ramana, there are 240 vacancies in the 15 tribunals.