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Large Number of Vacancies Across Tribunals, Appellate Tribunals: Govt Data

The vacancies raise questions on the justice delivery system as tribunals are institutions that play an important role in discharging judicial or quasi-judicial duties.
tribunal

New Delhi: A large number of posts are lying vacant across 12 Tribunals and Appellate Tribunals from nine Ministries and departments, according to data presented in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Law and Justice, Kiren Rijiju, earlier this month. The Minister presented this data while answering a question in the Lok Sabha.

Department of Legal Affairs

The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) consists of 63 Benches. For 63 Benches spread over 30 stations throughout the country, the present sanctioned strength of Members is 126, including one President and ten Zonal Vice-Presidents. There are 63 sanctioned posts for Accountant Members, out of which 20 are vacant, and 63 sanctioned posts for Judicial Members, out of which 16 are vacant. Out of the sanctioned strength of 126 posts, currently 36 posts are vacant, including the post of the President. This is despite the fact that recently,the Union Government has filled 21 vacancies.

Ministry of Corporate Affairs 

The National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has 15 vacancies at the moment – nine for Judicial Members, and six for Technical members. Two of the posts sanctioned for Judicial Members have been vacant since 2019, while some more have been vacant since 2020. The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has five vacancies – three for Judicial Members, and two for Technical Members.

Department of Personnel & Training

There are 19 regular benches of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) across the country. The total sanctioned strength of Members including 01 post of Chairman is 70. As on date, out of 70 sanctioned posts, only 33 posts are filled up and 37 posts are lying vacant. The Minister said in his statement, “The reason for these vacancies is that the vacancies for the years 2019, 2020, and 2021 could not be filled up due to the ongoing litigations in various High Courts and Supreme Court with regard to the rules governing the conditions of service of Chairman/ Members of Tribunals. However, now after the issuance of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 and framing of Rules there-under, the process of making selection of Members of CAT has begun with the constitution of a high-powered Search-cum-Selection Committee with the nomination of a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court as its Chairman, and other members.”

Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change

Five posts of Judicial Members are vacant in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The Ministry has issued offer letters to all the five candidates in March, 2022. However, four posts of Expert Members are also vacant in the NGT. “The Ministry endeavours to take necessary action well in advance to fill up the vacancies likely to arise for appointment of Judicial and Expert Members in the NGT,” the Minister said.

Ministry of Railways

Out of the 46 sanctioned posts in the Railway Claims Tribunal (RCT), only 19 are filled, while 27 posts remain vacant. The vacancies include four posts for Vice-Chairmen, 16 for Judicial Members, and seven for Technical Members. One post, meant for Technical Members, has been vacant since 2014, while one of the posts for Judicial Members has been vacant since 2015, two have been vacant since 2017, and three have been vacant since 2018.

Department of Revenue

There are a total of 17 vacancies in the Central Excise & Service Tax Appellate Tribunal (CESTAT). CESTAT benches in New Delhi and Bangalore have the most number of vacancies, with four vacant posts each. Two of the posts have been vacant since 2015, one has been vacant since 2016, and several more have been vacant since 2017. The Appellate Tribunal (SAFEMA) has five vacancies, including the post for the Chairman, which has been lying vacant since 2019.

Department of Financial Services

For the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) and Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT), at present, out of the five sanctioned posts of Chairperson, all five posts are filled up. However, out of 39 sanctioned posts of Presiding officer, 26 posts are filled and remaining 13 are lying vacant. According to the Minister, the Union government is in the process of filling these posts.

Department of Defence

In the Armed Forces Tribunal, out of the sanctioned strength of 34 Members (17 Judicial Members including Chairperson and 17 Administrative Members), 22 posts (10 posts of Judicial Members and 12 posts of Administrative Members) are lying vacant. Further, Out of 559 sanctioned strength of officers/staff, 248 are lying vacant. The Minister said, “The Ministry has been making constant endeavours in appointing Members in AFT. Recently, in September 2021, three new Judicial Members have taken charge in AFT. As regards appointment of officers and staff in AFT is concerned, the vacancies have been advertised.”

Department of Telecommunications

As per Section 14B of the TRAI Act, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) consists of one Chairperson and two Members. Post of Chairperson and one Member are already filled up. However, One post of Member is vacant since October, 2019. “Recommendations of the Search-cum-Selection Committee (SCSC) for the said post are under finalisation,” the Minister said.

Tribunals are institutions that play an important role in discharging judicial or quasi-judicial duties. The Supreme Court has ruled that Tribunals, being quasi-judicial bodies, should have the same level of independence from the executive as the judiciary. However, some posts at these Tribunals have been lying vacant for over seven years, and makes one wonder how much hindrance these vacancies have caused in the process of justice.

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