Evolution of Administrative Tribunals in India

The growth of administrative tribunals has been driven by a number of factors, including the increasing complexity of administrative law, the need for more specialized expertise in certain areas of law, and the desire to make the legal system more accessible and user-friendly for individuals and businesses. As a result, administrative tribunals have become an important part of the legal system in many jurisdictions around the world.

What is Tribunal?

A tribunal is an adjudicatory body that operates beyond the purview of the regular Courts of the Land. Administrative tribunals are authorities outside the regular court system, which interpret and enforce the laws. Whenever the question about public administration is raised in formal court proceedings administrative tribunals are referred.

Administrative tribunals have become increasingly important in recent years as a means of resolving disputes related to administrative law. These tribunals are specialized courts that have expertise in specific areas of law, such as employment, immigration, and taxation. They are often seen as a more efficient and cost-effective way to resolve disputes than traditional courts, as they can use alternative dispute resolution techniques and are less formal and more flexible in their procedures.

History of Tribunal

In India, in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a necessity for the creation of administrative tribunals. The goal was to decrease the workload on the courts by creating specialized organizations to settle employment-related issues. In 1985, Article 323A finally established the Administrative Tribunals Act.

Features of Administrative Tribunal

The main features of the Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 −

  • The creation of specialized tribunals to resolve disputes about employment in the public sector.

  • Transferring some types of disputes from ordinary courts to administrative tribunals.

  • The provision of swift and affordable justice for public servants.

  • The appointment of knowledgeable and experienced tribunal members.

  • Individual funding for every tribunal.

  • Having the capacity to regulate one's own procedure.

Growth of Administrative Tribunal

The evidence of administrative tribunal can be seen ancient India’s monarchical system. For example, in Mauryan’s and the Guptas regime, there was a centralised administrative system, which was continued without or with some modification. However, after the advent of the British, the administrative law in India went through a few changes. Legislations regulating administrative actions were passed in British India.

After independence, the India administrative system has consistently been experiencing changes and many developments. Further, as after independence, India became republic and a welfare state, which henceforth increased the state activities manifold. As the activities and powers of the Government and administrative authorities increased, the need for extensive ‘Rule of Law’ and ‘Judicial Review of State actions also started expanding.

Likewise, in India, the number of administrative tribunals has dramatically increased over time. There are now around 14 tribunals operating as a result of different federal and state statutes. These include −

Tribunal Role
Industrial Tribunal Laws controlling industrial companies are referred to as industrial law. They can cover a wide range of legal subjects, including contracts, industrial relations, contracts, employment legislation, and worker safety requirements. Every industry is different, and each one's regulations are as special as the company to which they apply.
Income Tax Appellant Tribunal It is the first independent forum in its appellate hierarchy and the second appellate authority for direct taxes. The ITAT's decisions may be appealed and challenged on significant legal grounds before the relevant High Court.
Customs, Excise, and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal The Customs, Excise & Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal, formerly known as the Customs Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT), was established on October 11, 1982. In order to comply with Article 323(B) of the Indian Constitution, measures were made in the Customs Act of 1962 that established the Appellate Tribunal.
Appellate Tribunal under Smugglers and Foreign Exchange For the purpose of hearing appeals against the decisions of the Adjudicating Authority and other authorities under this Act, the Appellate Tribunal established pursuant to subsection (1) of section 12 of the Smugglers and Foreign
Manipulators Act Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act, 1976 (13 of 1976) shall serve as the Appellate Tribunal.]
Administrative Tribunal When public administration actions are contested in formal court actions or via other recognised channels, administrative tribunals—authorities outside the regular court system—interpret and enforce the law.
Railway Claims Tribunal In the event of any natural or unnatural catastrophes causing damages to the passengers or goods handled by railroads, the Railway Claims Tribunal was established to evaluate claims against Indian Railways.
Securities Appellate Tribunal According to the provisions of the SEBI Act, 1992, the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) was established as a statutory and independent body to handle appeals of orders made by the SEBI and to exercise the jurisdiction, powers, and authority granted to the Tribunal by or under this Act or any other law then in effect.
Debt Recovery Tribunal In order to speed up the adjudication and recovery of debts owed to banks and financial institutions, as well as the insolvency resolution and bankruptcy of individuals and partnership firms, as well as related matters, the RDB Act, 1993 established Debts Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) with original jurisdiction and Debts Recovery Appellate Tribunals (DRATs) with appellate jurisdiction. Although not discouraging borrowers, the Act seeks to protect the interests of banks and other financial institutions as lenders. Because the corresponding rules have not yet come into effect, the Tribunals have not yet started taking on bankruptcy and insolvency resolution cases. The Act is applicable in situations when the total sum owed to any bank, financial institution, or group of banks or financial institutions as specified by the Act is Rs. 20 lakh or more.
The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) According to the TRAI Act, 1997 (as modified), the Information Technology Act, 2008, and the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008, the Tribunal has authority over telecom, broadcasting, IT, and airport pricing issues.
National Companies Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) With effect from 1st June 2016, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) was established under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013 to hear appeals against the decisions of the National Company Law Tribunal(s).
National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission A retired or active Supreme Court justice serves as the NCDRC's chair. To offer prompt, cost-effective, and concise resolution of consumer complaints or disputes is the goal of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, as well as the corresponding state commissions and district fora.
Appellate Tribunal for Electricity The Electricity Act of 2003 established the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity as a statutory and independent body to hear complaints, appeals, or initial petitions challenging decisions made by the State Regulatory Commission, Central Regulatory Commission, Joint Commission, or adjudicating officer.
Armed Forces Tribunal Any appeals against a court-martial order, judgement, finding, punishment, or any issue pertinent to or ancillary to such an order may be heard by the Armed Forces Tribunal. The tribunal has the authority to release an accused person held by the military on bail.
National Green Tribunal (India) In issues involving environmental protection, the preservation of forests and other natural resources, and the enforcement of any environmental legal rights, the Tribunal is entrusted with offering an efficient and effective solution

The demand for specialised and effective processes for the settlement of employment-related issues has fuelled the rise of administrative tribunals. The tribunals have been essential in making sure that government workers obtain prompt and efficient justice. The growth of the tribunal system has also assisted in lightening the burden on traditional courts, allowing them to concentrate on other issues.

Reasons for Growth of Administrative Law

Major reasons for the growth of administrative law are −

  • The welfare state idea − Government activities expanded as the States transitioned from being a laissez-faire to a welfare state, necessitating more regulation of those activities. Hence, this area of law evolved.

  • Scope of the investigation − Administrative law can be modified to meet the needs of the State apparatus because it is not a codified law. It is hence more adaptable. The strict legislative processes do not need to be followed again.

  • Inadequacy of legislative measures − The daily, ever-changing requirements of society cannot be addressed by the legislature in its limited time. Even if it does, the drawn-out and laborious legislative process would make the regulation useless since the needs would have changed by the time it was put into effect. As a result, the administration has the authority to pass laws and use its discretion. Thus, it becomes necessary to restrict powers after they are granted.

  • Unburden the judiciary − Because of the lengthy procedure and excessive number of cases, the court process for making decisions is extremely slow, expensive, complicated, and formal. Additionally, it is impossible to quickly dispose of suites due to the overwhelming number of cases that are already scheduled. There was a demand for tribunals as a result.


The major drivers of the expansion of administrative tribunals under the act have been its relief of courtroom congestion, reduction of court workload, and provision for quick resolution of service-related disputes. In general, the expansion of administrative tribunals is a reflection of the modern society's acknowledgment of the need for specialised knowledge and more effective and accessible conflict resolution procedures.

However, the growth of administrative tribunals has also raised some concerns, particularly with respect to their accountability and transparency. Some critics argue that administrative tribunals may be prone to bias or lack sufficient oversight, and that their decisions may be difficult to challenge through traditional means. Nevertheless, administrative tribunals continue to play an important role in the legal system, and their growth and evolution will likely continue in the years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Why have administrative tribunals grown in popularity?

Ans. Administrative tribunals have grown in popularity because they are seen as a more efficient and cost-effective way to resolve disputes than traditional courts. They also have expertise in specific areas of law, which can result in more consistent and informed decision-making.

Q2. Who can appeal a decision made by an administrative tribunal?

Ans. Typically, decisions made by administrative tribunals can be appealed to a higher court, although the specific procedures for doing so will vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of case.

Q3. Are administrative tribunals subject to judicial review?

Ans. Yes, administrative tribunals are generally subject to judicial review, which means that their decisions can be challenged in court if they are found to be unreasonable, procedurally unfair, or outside the tribunal's jurisdiction.

Updated on: 09-May-2023

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