Tribunals in India: Ensuring Efficient and Specialized Justic

October 30, 2023


In the Indian legal system, tribunals play a crucial role in providing efficient and specialized justice. They offer an alternative forum for dispute resolution, distinct from traditional courts. This article aims to explore the concept of tribunals in India, highlighting their differences from courts, the need for their existence, the role they play in the legal landscape, and some significant judgments that have shaped the functioning of tribunals.

What are Tribunals?

Tribunals are specialized bodies or institutions that are established to adjudicate specific types of disputes or cases. They provide an alternative forum for dispute resolution outside of traditional courts. Tribunals are composed of experts from specific fields who possess specialized knowledge relevant to the subject matter they handle.

History of Tribunals in India

The history of tribunals in India can be traced back to the British colonial era. During this time, various tribunals were established to deal with specific areas of law and administration. For example, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) was set up in 1941 to handle appeals related to income tax matters.

Under the Indian Constitution, the provision with respect to tribunals was added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 by adding Article 323A and 323B.

Difference between Courts and Tribunals:

While both courts and tribunals are institutions responsible for adjudicating disputes, there are distinct differences between the two.

Composition: Courts are presided over by judges who possess extensive legal knowledge and experience. Tribunals, on the other hand, comprise experts from specific fields who possess specialized knowledge relevant to the subject matter of the disputes they handle.

Procedure: Courts follow formal procedures established by the Code of Civil Procedure or the Code of Criminal Procedure. Tribunals, however, have more flexible procedures tailored to the specific needs of the subject matter they deal with. This allows for a faster and more efficient resolution of disputes.

Appeal Mechanism: Decisions made by courts can be appealed to higher courts in a hierarchical manner. In contrast, tribunals often have a specialized appellate body designated to hear appeals from their decisions. This ensures expertise in the subject matter and expedites the resolution process.

Need for Tribunals:

The establishment of tribunals serves several important purposes within the Indian legal system:

Expertise: Tribunals provide a platform for resolving disputes that require specialized knowledge and understanding. By having experts in the respective fields presiding over cases, tribunals ensure that decisions are made by individuals with a deep understanding of the subject matter.

Efficiency: The backlog of cases in traditional courts is a pressing issue in India. Tribunals help alleviate this burden by handling specific types of cases, allowing for a faster and more efficient resolution process. This helps in reducing the overall pendency of cases and ensures timely justice.

Accessibility: Tribunals are often established to cater to specific sectors or areas of law, making justice more accessible to individuals and entities involved in those sectors. By having specialized forums, the legal process becomes more approachable and comprehensible to the parties involved.

Role Played by Tribunals:

Tribunals play a vital role in various sectors, addressing specific areas of law and ensuring specialized justice. Some of the key roles played by tribunals in India include:

Administrative Law: The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and State Administrative Tribunals (SATs) handle disputes related to service matters of government employees. They provide an alternative forum for resolving issues concerning recruitment, promotions, transfers, and disciplinary actions.

Taxation: The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) is responsible for hearing appeals related to income tax matters. It plays a crucial role in providing an independent and specialized forum for resolving tax disputes.

Environment: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established to address environmental issues and disputes. It has the power to hear cases related to environmental protection, conservation of natural resources, and enforcement of environmental laws.

Intellectual Property: The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) handles appeals related to intellectual property rights, including patents, trademarks, and copyrights. It ensures specialized adjudication in this complex area of law.

Important Judgments on Tribunals:

L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India (1997): In this landmark judgment, the Supreme Court held that tribunals, like courts, must possess independence and impartiality. It emphasized that the power of judicial review is an essential feature of the Indian Constitution and cannot be taken away from the jurisdiction of regular courts.

 Madras Bar Association v. Union of India (2014): The Supreme Court, in this case, emphasized the importance of maintaining the independence and integrity of tribunals. It held that appointments to tribunals should be made through a transparent process, ensuring the selection of qualified and competent individuals.

Union of India v. R. Gandhi (2010): The Supreme Court, in this judgment, clarified that tribunals are not subordinate to high courts but are independent entities. It emphasized that tribunals have exclusive jurisdiction over matters assigned to them and their decisions can only be challenged before the designated appellate bodies.


Tribunals in India serve as specialized forums for resolving disputes, ensuring efficiency, expertise, and accessibility in the legal system. They play a crucial role in addressing specific areas of law and providing timely justice. While there have been significant judgments that have shaped the functioning of tribunals, continuous efforts are needed to ensure their independence, transparency, and effectiveness. By recognizing the importance of tribunals and further strengthening their functioning, India can enhance its legal framework and promote a more efficient and specialized justice system.

Significance of the Topic

It is recommended by judiciary coaching that Judiciary aspirants need to have a good understanding of the concept, history, formation, need and functioning of the Tribunals in India. The topic is also a facet of separation of power. The topic is of contemporary relevance too. It may be asked in the form of essays in the judiciary examinations. Therefore, judiciary coaching recommends that topic is to be covered by the judiciary aspirants.

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