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Topic: Administrative Law: Administrative Tribunals

Administrative tribunals differ from the ordinary courts in two things, their constitution and procedure. As regards their composition they consist of administrative officials and experts and not judges, for their procedure, it is simpler and much more informal than that the courts. Thus the usual rules of evidence are not observed, lawyers are often not allowed to appear, facts are quickly elicited by act questioning by the hearing officer or tribunal, and decisions are speedily reached.

Administrative Tribunals in various Countries

In the continental countries like France, there is a systematic hierarchy of administrative courts headed by the council of state at the top - to hear appeals from the decision of lower tribunals. It constitutes a complete system like that of regular courts in other countries.

In the Anglo-Saxon countries and those like India which have been be influenced by their traditions, the growth of administrative tribunals has been haphazard. They have been established as and when required, but although their number is now fairly large they have never been organized into a coherent system. Their constitution and procedure differs from instance to instance and there is no single higher tribunal to hear appeals from them.

In India, the development has been along the same lines as in Britain. Due to the backward state of economic and social legislator the number of administrative tribunals in this country is not so large as in Britain, but it is by no means negligible. Here also the adjudicator power is vested, as in Britain, sometimes in separate tribunals like the Income Tax Appellate Tribunals. Boards of Revenue, Labour an Industrial Court,. Labour Appellate Tribunals. etc. while in other case: government departments or particular officers have it. Thus the district collector or deputy commissioner has adjudicatory powers under the legislation for the reduction of agricultural indebtedness, in respect appeals from specified kinds of orders of local bodies, etc.

The number of such tribunals is increasing because of the welfare role taken up by the state under the Constitution. The number of Indian statutes which constitute administrative authorities, purely administrative and quasi-judicial, is large.

In 1985 the Parliament passed the Administrative Tribunals Act and set up the Central Administrative Tribunal for the speedy settlement of disputes and complaints regarding recruitment and service conditions of the employees of the Central and State Governments as well as local authorities (see more details in the chapter on Personnel Administration). This was in pursuance of Article 323A inserted by way of 42nd Amendment of the Constitution. The same Amendment inserted Art. 323B which empowers the appropriate legislature to set-up the following tribunals: in matters relating to taxation, foreign exchange, labor disputes, land reforms, elections, essential goods, offences and incidental matters’ relating to such matters.

In the U.S.A. administrative tribunals are of four kinds, Firstly there are independent administrative courts, e.g. the U.S. Custom Court. Board of Tax Appeals, Court of Claims etc. The members of these are called judges and their tenure of office is during good behaviour and they do no other work except adjudicatory. The procedure of these tribunals also resembles the judicial. Secondly, there are social administrative courts like the Board of Appeal in the Patent Office, or Board of Veterans’ appeal in the Veterans’ Administration. These are integral parts of some administrative units, and their members are not called judges. They, also have no administrative work to do but only adjudicate. Thirdly, there are the regulatory bodies like the Interstate Commerce Commission. Federal Trade Commission and others. These, as we have seen, have all kinds of powers. quasi-legislative, administrative and adjudicatory. Their members are not called judges, they are appointed by the President for fixed terms, and are removable by him only for reasons specified in the law. These bodies are independent of executive control. Fourthly and lastly, there are licensing authorities like the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation, Civil Aeronautics Authority. etc. Adjudicatory powers are also vested in executive departments or their heads, e.g., the Secretary of Agriculture, but the recent tendency in the U.S.A. has ‘been to assign the adjudicatory powers to independent administrative agencies rather than to departments.” In the U.S.A. the number of administrative tribunals is estimated to be over 50. In Britain it is still larger, seeing that no fewer than 14 closely printed pages of Pollard’s book Administrative Tribunals at Work are devoted to a mere enumeration of them. They are characterized, by a bewildering diversity of constitution and procedure, and no effort has so far been made to co-ordinate them. Some of them consist of single officers, others are plural in composition. Some are independent or quasi-independent of executive control, while others are departmental in character. Their proceedings may be public or private. Personal hearing mayor may not be allowed. Lawyer’s mayor may not be permitted to appear. Grounds for decision may or may not be given, and finally, appeals mayor may not be allowed.

Factors giving rise to Administrative Tribunals

(1) The root of the development of administrative tribunal is expansion of government activities, and increased interference with the lives of the Citizens.
(2) The regular courts have not the requisite expertise to settle issues arising from highly technical & complex matters by-product of modern administration.
(3) The desire to subordinate individual rights to public goods is also at the back of the preference for administrative tribunals.
(4) Administrative tribunals are generally preferred where prompt action is called for.
(5) The desire to have inexpensive and rapid Justice unencumbered by elaborate rules of procedure and evidence has also led to the growth of administrative tribunals.
(6) The administrative tribunals relieve the regular court of law of a great amount of work.

Advantages of Administrative Tribunals

(1) Administrative Justice is cheaper
(2) Administrative tribunals perform the functions with greater flexibility.
(3) The proceedings are broadly characterized by informality and simplicity.
(4) The administrative adaptation and responsiveness are cited as some of the merits of administrative adjudication.
(5) Summary procedure is another advantage of the administrative adjudication.
(6) Experimentation is possible in the field and not in the realm of judicial trials.
(7) Another merit of tribunals is that they provide relief to the ordinary courts.

Disadvantages of Administrative Tribunals

(1) The administrative tribunals do not fit in very well with the concept of Rule & Law.
(2) Administrative adjudication also violates the principles of natural justice.
(3) Tribunals cannot act Judicially, are the limbs of the executive.
(4) The administrative tribunals do not observe uniform procedures.
(5) Sometimes, no appeal to the ordinary courts of law is permitted against the decision of the administrative tribunals.


(1) Administrative tribunals should be manned by persons possessing legal training and experience.
(2) A code of judicial procedure for administrative tribunals should be devised and enforced.
(3) Reasons should invariably accompany a decision.
(4) The right to Judicial review on points of law must remain unimpaired.
(5) Indiscriminate recourse to administrative tribunals must be avoided; the tribunals have utility for specific purposes and within specific limits.

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