What Is a Quasi-Judicial Body?
The word ‘quasi’ means ‘not exactly’. An authority is described as a quasi-judicial authority when it has some attributes of judicial functions but not all. A quasi-judicial function stands midway between a judicial function and an administrative function. A quasi-judicial decision is near to administrative decision in terms of its discretionary element and near judicial decision in terms of objectivity of its end product.
Quasi-judicial bodies are considered essential to ensure:
- Functional flexibility and ability of the administration.
- Check against the encroachment of fundamental & human rights.
- Cheap and speedy justice.
- Reducing the burden of court and getting a judgement after analysing the administerial technicalities during the course of action.
In this law note, you will read about the power and functions of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) which is a quasi-judicial body.
Institution and Incorporation of the Central Administrative Tribunal
There was no concept of quasi-judicial bodies in India in the original Constitution. In 1976, through the 42nd constitutional amendment, a new Part XIV(A), with two new Articles (Article 323A and Article 323B), were introduced to provide tribunal systems in India.
It empowered the Indian parliament to make a law for administrative tribunal to adjudicate matters related to a public servant of union, state, local bodies, public corporation and other public authorities. Parliament in 1985 passed the Administrative Tribunal Act and authorised the union government to establish Central Administrative Tribunal and State Administrative Tribunal.
The Central Administrative Tribunal was set up with its principal bench in Delhi and additional benches in different states. There are 18 regular benches, 15 of them operate at the principal seat of the High Courts, and the remaining 3 are at Jaipur, Jammu, and Lucknow (as of January 2022).
Constitution and Composition of the Central Administrative Tribunal
It is a multimember body. Section 5 of the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985 provides the composition of the Central Administrative Tribunal. According to subsection 1 of section 5, each Central Administrative Tribunal shall consist of a chairperson, such number of vice-chairperson and other members as the appropriate government decides. As per subsection 2 of section 5, the bench shall consist of one judicial member and one administrative member. Subsections 1, 2 and 3 of section 6 of the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985 prescribes qualifications for appointment.
A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a chairman of the Central Administrative Tribunal unless he is or has been a judge of the High Court or has for at least two years held the position of secretary to the union government.
A person shall not be qualified for appointment as a vice-chairperson of the Central Administrative Tribunal unless he is or has been a judge of a High Court or secretary to union government or any state government and carrying the pay scale of not less than that of secretory of Government of India.
As of November 2021, the authorised strength of the Central Administrative Tribunal consists of 1 chairperson and 69 members. They all are appointed by the president and hold office for 5 years or until they attain the age of 65 years (for chairman and vice-chairman) and 62 years (members), whichever is earlier. Thirty-six seats are lying vacant out of the sanctioned strength of 69 members.
Status of the CAT
The Central Administrative Tribunal enjoys the status and powers of the High Court and is expected to have the same jurisdiction as that of the High Court. This Central Administrative Tribunal has been established for adjudication of disputes with respect to recruitment and other personal matters within the territory of India.
The Central Administrative Tribunal follows the principle of natural justice in deciding cases and the procedures. The CAT is empowered to prescribe its own rule or practice for discharging its functions subject to the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985. The Central Administrative Tribunal exercises original jurisdiction, which extends to:
- All India Services
- Central Civil Services
- Civilian employees in defence services
Note: Members of defence forces are not included. The officers and servants of secretariat or parliament and officers and services of the supreme court will not come under Central Administrative Tribunal.
Comparison With French Administrative Courts
Unlike the French Administrative Court, Indian Central Administrative Tribunal consists of both judicial and administrative members.
Unlike France, against the judgement of the Central Administrative Tribunal, one can move to the High Court and Supreme Court. Before 1997, only the Supreme Court was authorised to hear an appeal against Central Administrative Tribunal. But in L. Chandra Kumar vs Union of India and Others (1997), Supreme Court declared that the restriction on the jurisdiction of the High Court was unconstitutional and held that judicial review is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Consequently, now an aggrieved public servant can’t approach the Supreme Court directly against the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal without first concerning the High Court order.
Conclusively the Indian tribunal system is not developed like the French Administrative Court, where the Administrative Court is outside the jurisdiction of the traditional court.
It is said if the judiciary eclipses the tribunal system, the very purpose of the tribunal system will be diluted. But in India, to date, the judiciary has successfully maintained the balance between the administrative block and the legislative block.
Given the increasing role of administration, the Administrative Tribunals are expected to play an important role in redressing grievances. The Administrative Tribunals must come out of their competencies and expert mechanisms with a judicial and objective approach.
Thus, the tribunals have come to stay, and the basic premise of the establishment of the tribunals is around resolving the current issues. It will help in improving the tribunal system in India. Certainly, that will make the process of litigation easier for those who wish to approach the tribunal.
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