‘Against judicial independence’: Jairam Ramesh moves SC against tribunal act

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Monday moved the Supreme Court against the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021, which was passed by both the houses of the Parliament in the recently-ended Monsoon session and had received the presidential assent on August 13.

Ramesh said the Act is abrogating the principle of judicial independence and it is a deliberate attempt to override the judgement of the top court.

Citing the top court judgment, the plea argued the impugned legislation was passed without much deliberation or comprehensive impact assessment being undertaken.

Urging the top court to declare the Act, as unconstitutional and ultra vires of Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution, his plea contended: “The Act contains various provisions that are identical in nature to those in the Tribunals Ordinance that were set aside by this court in the case of Madras Bar Association (MBA)-IV-2021.”

The plea contended that Centre’s failure to fix allowances/HRA and make the 3-month appointment timeline mandatory also violates the directions of the top court in MBA-III-2020/MBA-IV-2021 and thwarts the judicial independence of tribunals and its separation from the executive.

Ramesh argued by fixing the tenure of persons appointed to tribunals to four years, and mandating the recommendation of two names for selection to a post, abrogates the complementary principles of separation of powers and judicial independence that are foundational to the judicial branch.

“It is also submitted that the bar on appointing persons below 50 years of age reduces the effectiveness of tribunals by both stifling talent and fomenting vacancies, flies against various judgements of this Hon’ble Court in MBA-I, Rojer Mathew, MBA-III2020 and MBA-IV-2021, and is blatantly discriminatory under Article 14 of the Constitution,” the plea added.

Ramesh contended that the Act is purportedly passed with the objective of reducing the financial burden on the exchequer as several tribunals have not resulted in faster adjudication as observed from data collected over the last three years. He added, however, the transfer of cases from such tribunals to the high courts, which also suffer from a huge pendency, defeats the purpose of tribunalisation.

“The repeated failure of the government to comply with the directions of this court, undermine the rule of law and the equal protection of laws that are fundamental guarantees under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution,” the plea added.