The Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 was passed in Lok Sabha on August 3, 2021. The Bill seeks to dissolve certain existing appellate bodies and transfer their functions (such as adjudication of appeals) to other existing judicial bodies. The Bill seeks to provide for uniform terms and conditions of the various members of the Tribunal and abolish certain tribunals, as a part of its bid to rationalize the tribunals. The Bill replaces a similar Ordinance promulgated in April 2021.
Abolition of Appellate Tribunals: Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, Airports Appellate Tribunal, Authority for Advanced Rulings, Intellectual Property Appellate Board and the Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal are the five tribunals which are sought to be abolished by the Bill and their functions are to be transferred to the existing judicial bodies.
Search-cum Selection Committee: As per Section 3 (7) of the Bill, the Chairperson and the Members of the various tribunals are to be appointed on the recommendations of the Search-cum Selection Committee. The members of the committee are: (i) the Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court Judge nominated by him, as the Chairperson (with casting vote), (ii) two Secretaries nominated by the Union government, (iii) the sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired Supreme Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court; and (iv) the Secretary of the Ministry under which the Tribunal is constituted (with no voting right).
For state tribunals, there will be a separate search committee consisting of the following members: i) the Chief Justice of the High Court of the concerned state, as the Chairman (with a casting vote), (ii) the Chief Secretary of the state government and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission of the concerned state, (iii) the sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired High Court Judge; and (iv) the Secretary or Principal Secretary of the state’s general administrative department (with no voting right).
Eligibility and term of office: The Bill provides for a four-year term of office (subject to the upper age limit of 70 years for the Chairperson, and 67 years for members). Further, it specifies a minimum age requirement of 50 years for appointment of a chairperson or a member.