Not respecting our orders, testing our patience: Supreme Court criticises Centre for enacting Tribunal Reforms Act

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The Supreme Court on Monday strongly criticized the Centre over the delay in filling up of vacancies at various tribunals and also for enacting the Tribunal Reforms Act, which is apparently identical to the earlier law struck down by the top court. The top court told the Centre that there was no respect for its judgment and such circumstances were testing its patience. “You are emasculating the tribunals,” said a bench of CJI N V Ramana and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L N Rao.

Ramana said the court is “extremely upset” with the situation. He pointed out that the court was happy with the government for clearing appointment of judges to the apex court. “We do not want any confrontation with the government”, he added.

The bench said the government-appointed 9 SC judges within 7 days of recommendations reaching it. “Why is it taking one and half years to appoint tribunal members and chairpersons,” it asked.

The CJI said we are not interested in or inviting any confrontation (with the govt), we are listing the matter for further hearing till next Monday.
“We do not want confrontation with the government but we will be left with no option but to either close down the tribunals or take over the appointments and initiate contempt if the government does not implement the recommendations,” it said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested the bench to adjourn the matter till Thursday as the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, was not available due to some personal difficulty. This contention did not go down well with the bench, instead the judges on the bench shot a volley of questions at Mehta.

“How many people have you appointed (in the tribunals). We set up special benches (to hear the tribunal appointment matter), by disturbing other benches,” said the Chief Justice.

The bench pointed out that recommendations for the appointment were made one-and-a-half year ago in accordance with the law, which existed then. “Why no appointments have been made. Tribunals are on the verge of closure,” said Justice Rao.

Justice Chandrachud told Mehta that NCLT, NCLAT are critical to the economy, and they are important for rehabilitation of corporate entities. He added that important cases are not being heard because of vacancies and by not appointing members at these tribunals creates a very critical position.

Justice Chandrachud added that he had chaired a selection committee for the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. “Names which we recommended are either deleted, and there’s no clarity why! We sit together with bureaucrats and make these decisions. It is a waste of energy,” said Justice Chandrachud. Justice Rao said: “See the burden we have to face now. You are emasculating these tribunals by not appointing members”.

If orders are not implemented, the top court said it has following options: Stay the Tribunal Reforms Act, close down tribunals, the top court appoints the people to fill up vacancies and initiate contempt of court proceedings.

On August 16, the top court had given 10 days to the Centre to make appointments in various tribunals and cautioned it about the consequences, if appointments were not made.

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