Difference Between Courts and Tribunals

Tribunals and courts are both legal bodies that adjudicate disputes, but there are several distinctions between them. Generally, courts are established by the government and have broad jurisdiction to hear a wide range of cases. They are typically staffed by judges. They have the authority to make binding decisions.

In contrast, tribunals are typically established to deal with specific types of disputes or areas of law, such as employment disputes, immigration cases, or tax appeals. Along with the judges, it is also staffed by experts in the relevant field, and may have more informal procedures and rules of evidence than courts. But the commonality is, both tribunals and courts play an important role in the administration of justice and in upholding the rule of law. They are both essential components of a fair and just legal system.

What are Courts?

The court may be thought of as the judicial body established by the government to resolve conflicts between opposing parties through a formal legal procedure. According to the rule of law, it seeks to provide justice in civil, criminal, and administrative problems. In a nutshell, a court is a government entity where the judge, a panel of judges, or a magistrate decides on legal issues.

What are Tribunal?

Tribunal is a quasi-judicial organisation created to handle issues like settling administrative or tax-related disagreements. It carries out several tasks, including adjudicating disputes, deciding the rights of disputing parties, making administrative decisions, reviewing past administrative decisions, and more.

Differences Between Courts and Tribunals

The Difference between Court and Tribunal are highlighted in the given table −

Court Tribunal
It is main body of Judicial System A tribunal is a quasi-judicial body.
In civil matters, courts issue rulings, decrees, and orders; in criminal cases, they render verdicts of acquittal or conviction. Tribunals are set up to provide rewards to the parties in question.
Courts handle a range of matters, including criminal, civil, and constitutional ones. Tribunals specifically set up to deal with only one subject-matter; and hence, there are different tribunals for the different subject matters.
The Code of Criminal Process, Civil Procedure Code, and Law of Evidence are just a few of the statutes that outline the rules of procedure that courts must abide by. Tribunals are exempt from following stringent procedural rules while making decisions in cases. While making awards, courts adhere to the principles of natural justice.
In the judicial hierarchy, the supreme court is the highest court in the nation. Indian judiciary has three-tiered legal system. Usually, tribunals are unitary body, where, aggrieved people directly file their issue.
The courts are superior to the tribunals, and appeals of tribunal decisions must be made to the high courts and supreme courts. If the aggrieved party is not satisfied with the tribunal’s decision, then they can appeal to respective High Court and then Supreme Court.
A judge who is qualified to practise law serves as the court's presiding authority. A person without formal legal training is not required to serve as a tribunal's presiding officer. In the event of an administrative tribunal, for example, the presiding officer and members may be experts in the field of administrative issues related to the executive.
Courts are exclusively legal institutions and one of the governing bodies (among three governing bodies) as per the Indian Constitution. Although part XIV-A of the Indian Constitution defines the provision of setting up tribunals; so, these tribunals must be constituted by specific legislation that specifies their roles, responsibilities, and membership.
The court has the authority to determine whether a legislation or law is constitutionally permissible or not. The tribunals have no such authority.
Courts are autonomous institutions that are independent of both the legislative and executive branches. In courts, judges are also independent and impartial. They must adhere to their own rules. While deciding on the tenure and other service-related issues for the tribunal members, the executive has some control over the tribunals.
In court, solicitors and advocates play a crucial part in arguing the case. There isn't much opportunity for the disputing parties to speak. Due to their familiarity with legal procedure, solicitors are given the most opportunity to speak in court. But, in tribunals, the disputing parties participate directly in the resolution of the conflict. As there is no rigid rule of law to be observed and any layperson can successfully argue their case in court, lawyers have little to no influence in a case.


Both courts and tribunals are crucial components of our nation's system for administering justice. The courts have established several precedents throughout the years, greatly aiding Indian democracy. The creation of tribunals has allowed for the quick and inexpensive resolution of matters. Due to the significant backlog of cases on the judiciary throughout time, the load on the courts has increased. India has a fairly large population, however there are extremely few judges in the system when compared to the size of the country.

As a result, the judges are overworked with caseloads. The creation of tribunals has undoubtedly relieved some of the judges' workload with others. They work towards upholding the principles of justice, equity and good conscience. Both the court and the tribunal carry out their respective tasks apart from one another. The responsibility to safeguard constitutional values and to keep the nation's peace and order rests with both the court and the tribunal.

Courts and tribunals differ significantly in many important ways, although they are comparable in the way that justice is delivered. The parties have an equal opportunity to submit and argue their claims in both courts and tribunals. Both courts and tribunals adhere to the audi alterem partem (no one shall be convicted without being heard) concept. In conclusion, courts and tribunals collaborate with one another.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What types of cases are heard in tribunals?

Ans. Tribunals typically hear cases related to specialized areas of law, such as employment, immigration, tax, social security, and housing. They are designed to provide a less formal and more accessible forum for resolving disputes in these areas.

Q2. What types of cases are heard in courts?

Ans. Courts handle a wide range of legal matters, including civil and criminal cases. Civil cases involve disputes between private parties, such as contract disputes, personal injury claims, and property disputes. Criminal cases involve allegations of criminal conduct, such as theft, assault, and murder.

Q3. How are tribunals and courts similar?

Ans. Tribunals and courts are both legal forums that are set up to hear and decide on disputes between parties. They both have the power to make legally binding decisions and can enforce their rulings.

Updated on: 09-May-2023

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