Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while speaking over the Bill in Rajya Sabha on August 9 clarified that the top court had not struck it down on constitutionality.
The Rajya Sabha on August 9 passed the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021 amid Opposition protests over Pegasus Project report, farm laws and price rise.
The Bill that seeks to abolish many appellate tribunals set up under various Acts was passed in Lok Sabha by voice vote without a debate amid the protests on August 3.
During the proceedings in Rajya Sabha on August 9, a division vote was called by the vice-chairperson on a motion to refer the Bill to a select committee. As a precondition for division voting, all the members, including the protesting Opposition leaders, had to return to their seats for the order to return to the House
The motion was negated with 44 members voting in its favour and 79 members opposing it. This was a first division vote in this Monsoon Session that has been witnessing constant disruption since it started on July 19.
Here are the key features of the Tribunals Reforms Bill, 2021:
Abolition of Appellate Tribunals
The Bill seeks to dissolve certain existing appellate bodies and transfer their functions, such as adjudication of appeals, to other existing judicial bodies.
Among the Tribunals that the Bill seeks to abolish include Film Certification Appellate Tribunal, Airports Appellate Tribunal, Authority for Advanced Rulings, Intellectual Property Appellate Board and Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal. The functions of these tribunals will be transferred to the existing judicial bodies.
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The tribunals under the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 and the Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002, would also be wound up, once this Bill becomes a law.
All cases pending before such tribunals or authorities will be transferred to the Commercial Court or High Court.
Bill replaces Ordinance
The Bill replaces a similar Ordinance promulgated in April 2021 with similar provisions. The Ordinance was challenged in the Supreme Court over its lack of compliance with past Supreme Court judgements on Tribunals. In July 2021, the Court struck down certain provisions of the Ordinance. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while speaking over the Bill in Rajya Sabha on August 9 clarified that the top court had not struck it down on constitutionality.
Last week, the Supreme Court refused to discuss the Tribunals Reforms Bill 2021, according to legal news website LiveLaw.
The Bill proposes to include provisions related to the composition of selection committees and term of office in the Act itself. 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 Bill amends the Finance Act, 2017 to specify that the members of the committee will be (i)Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court Judge nominated by him, as the Chairperson, (ii)two secretaries nominated by the central 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, according to PRS Legislative Research.
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The state tribunals will have separate search-cum-selection committees. These Committees will consist of (i) the Chief Justice of the High Court of the concerned state, as the Chairman (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.
The Centre has to decide on the recommendations of selection committees preferably within three months from the date of the recommendation.
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 the appointment of a chairperson or a member.