The SC states that a 50-year-old minimum age for tribunal members is arbitrary and invalidates many provisions

Team SoOLEGAL 20 Jul 2021 12:12pm

The SC states that a 50-year-old minimum age for tribunal members is arbitrary and invalidates many provisions

The Supreme Court has criticized that sets out a minimum age for tribunal members, shortening their term, and enhancing administrative influence in their appointment and compensation. In a concurring opinion, Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Ravindra Bhat declared these clauses to be unconstitutional, citing the concepts of separation of powers and judicial independence.

The Madras Bar Association has filed a writ petition contesting certain sections of the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021, which the three-judge panel was examining. The petitioners contended that the legislation aims to reinstate measures that were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2020. The ordinance of April 2021 stipulated a minimum age of 50 years for appointment as chairman or member of a tribunal. The Supreme Court ruled that this is no appropriate since it will discourage qualified lawyers from seeking appointment.

Justice Bhat stated that the minimum age criterion is discriminatory since it has no reasonable connection to the goal of choosing the most qualified applicants. In the related judgement passed in 2020, the Supreme Court stated that a short term for members is "anti-merit." As a result, it ordered that tribunal rules be changed to include a five-year minimum tenure requirement and the ability to seek reappointment. However, notwithstanding anything stated in any decision, ruling, or decree of any court, the 2021 law established a four-year term for chairpersons and members of tribunals.

The Madras Bar Association claimed that a shorter-term would discourage qualified people from seeking appointments to courts. The Supreme Court agreed with the argument and ruled that the 2021 clauses are plainly an attempt to overturn its previous directions and hence arearbitrary. The Supreme Court ordered that the house rent allowance for the tribunal chairman or vice-chairperson be increased to Rs 1.5 lakh per month in a judgement last year. It was set at Rs 1.25 lakh for members. This was done on the basis of the Madras Bar Association's claim that the bulk of the courts were located in Delhi, which had a severe housing shortage. As a result, there aren't a lot of high court judges. The2021 legislation, on the other hand, stated that the allowances and perks available to tribunal members would be the same as those available to central government officers on the same salary scale. This restriction on the HRA to a lower band has been ruled unlawful.

The Supreme Court ordered the government to nominate tribunal members within three months after the SC's recommendations in its 2020 decision. "In the broader interest of administration of justice and upholding the rule of law," this directive was provided "to expedite the process of appointment." The 2021 regulation, on the other hand, weakened the requirement by making it "preferable" for the government to make nominations within the three-month period. This clause has likewise been found to be arbitrary.

Tagged: Supreme Court   tribunal members   Justice L Nageswara Rao   Justice Ravindra Bhat   Madras Bar Association  
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