General Studies IIJudiciary

Tribunal Reforms Act of 2021


The Supreme Court has observed that the government’s move to introduce a statute last year on key tribunals, that too, merely days after the court struck down an identical law, may amount to dishonouring its judgment.

What is the Tribunal Reforms Act of 2021?

The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 was promulgated in April 2021. The Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021 essentially replaces the ordinance.

  • The Act absolves certain appellate tribunals/boards and shifts their functions to other existing judicial bodies such as high courts.
  • It seeks to abolish certain appellate tribunals (for example, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, Airports Appellate Tribunal, etc.) and also bring in changes in the terms of service of the tribunal officials.
  • The Supreme Court questioned the government over the hasty passage of the bill and also asked the government to give reasons for the bill’s introduction.

Salient Features of Tribunal Reforms Act of 2021

The Act, as mentioned before, seeks to dissolve some of the existing tribunals and move their functions to judicial bodies like the high courts.

Search-cum-Selection Committee

  • Search-cum-Selection Committees will be constituted and on the basis of the recommendations of these committees, the Central Government would appoint chairpersons and members of tribunals.
  • The government should act upon the recommendations preferably within three months.
  • The composition of the committees are as follows:

  • Chief Justice of India (CJI) OR a Supreme Court judge nominated by the CJI, as the Chairperson (with casting vote)
  • Two central government-nominated secretaries
  • Sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired Supreme Court judge, or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court 

  • Sitting chairperson – in case of appointment of a member of a tribunal (the sitting chairperson of that tribunal)
  • Outgoing chairperson – in case of appointment of a chairperson of a tribunal (the outgoing chairperson of that tribunal)
  • Retired SC judge/retired HC Chief Justice – in case of a tribunal’s Chairperson seeking reappointment.
  • Secretary of the Union Ministry under which the tribunal is to be constituted (with no voting rights)
  • There shall be separate Search-cum-Selection Committees for State administrative tribunals. Their membership is as follows:
    • Chief Justice of that state’s High Court as the Chairperson (with casting vote)
    • Chief Secretary of the State Government concerned
    • Chairman of the State Public Service Commission
    • One member, who:
      • Outgoing Chairperson of the Tribunal whose Chairperson is to be appointed
      • Sitting Chairperson of the Tribunal whose Member is to be appointed
      • Retired Judge of a High Court nominated by the Chief Justice of the High Court of the State concerned in case of the Chairman of the Tribunal seeking re-appointment


  • The Act provides for a four-year tenure.
  • The Chairperson shall be of a minimum of fifty years of age.
  • The tenure is either four years or 67 years whichever is earlier, in case of a member.
  • For chairpersons, it is either four years or 70 years, whichever is earlier.

Finance Act, 2017

  • The Finance Act of 2017 had merged tribunals based on domains. It also gave powers to the central government to notify rules on the composition of search-cum-selection committees, tribunal members’ qualifications, terms and conditions of service like salary, removal, etc.
  • The new tribunal reforms act removes these provisions from the finance act.

Consumer Protection Act, 2019

  • The new act also makes amendments to the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.


ActAppellate Body Proposed Entity
The Cinematograph Act, 1952Appellate TribunalHigh Court
The Trade Marks Act, 1999Appellate Board High Court
The Copyright Act, 1957Appellate Board Commercial Court or the Commercial Division of a High Court
The Customs Act, 1962Authority for Advance Rulings High Court
The Patents Act, 1970Appellate BoardHigh Court
The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994Airport Appellate TribunalCentral Government – For disputes arising from the disposal of properties left on airport premises by unauthorised occupants High Court – For appeals against orders of an eviction officer
The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002Airport Appellate TribunalCivil Court
The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999Appellate BoardHigh C

What’s the issue?

The Tribunal Reforms Act of 2021 has been challenged in the court.

  • The petitioners argue that the law raises a serious threat to judicial independence by giving the government wide powers regarding appointments, service conditions, salaries etc., of members of key tribunals.
  • The petitioners have argued that the Act was introduced in the Lok Sabha just days after the Supreme Court struck down the Tribunal Reforms (Rationalisation and Conditions of Service) Ordinance of 2021. The Act brought back the very same provisions in the ordinance which were struck down by the Supreme Court.

Controversial provisions:

The Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 was passed in both houses last year. The law has triggered a fresh stand-off between the legislature and the judiciary over the powers of and limitations on law making.

  • As per the Act, the minimum age criterion is 50 years for appointment of advocates as members of tribunals and the tenure is four-years.

The court found the caps arbitrary. But, the government has argued that the move will bring in a specialised talent pool of advocates to pick from.

  • Section 3(1), Sections 3(7), 5 and 7(1) ultra-vires Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution.

Section 3 (1) bars appointments to tribunals of persons below 50 years of age. This undermines the length/security of tenure and violates both judicial independence and the principle of separation of powers.

Section 3(7) of the impugned Act which mandates the recommendation of a panel of two names by the search-cum selection committee to the Central Government, violates the principles of separation of powers and judicial independence.

Source: The Hindu

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