NEW DELHI: Congress leader and Member of Parliament Jairam Ramesh has moved the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of various provisions of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, which was recently passed during the Monsoon session of Parliament and received Presidential assent on August 13.
Ramesh in his plea said that he has filed the petition in public interest assailing the proviso to Section 3(1) along with Sections 3(7), 5 and 7(1) of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 as being ultra-vires Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution.
"The Petitioner is aggrieved by the impugned Act abrogating the principle of judicial independence, and its passage being a deliberate attempt to legislatively override the judgement of this Court in Madras Bar Association versus Union of India, which set aside provisions identical to those being impugned, without removing the basis of the judgement," the petition said.
Ramesh in his plea filed through advocate Abhishek Jebaraj said that in August 2021, the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021 was passed by both Houses of Parliament and received Presidential assent on August 13, 2021.
"The Tribunals Act which repeals the Tribunals Ordinance was made retrospectively effective from April 4, 2021 and enacted inter alia with the objective, "to abolish certain tribunals and authorities and to provide a mechanism for filing appeal directly to the commercial court or the High Court" and also reduce the burden on public exchequer", his plea said.
He further said that the impugned Act contains various provisions that are identical in nature to those in the Tribunals ordinance that were set aside by this Court on July 14.
"The proviso to Section 3 (1) of the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021, which bars the appointment to tribunals of persons below fifty years of age, violates Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution. The provision is identical to Section 184(1) of the Finance Act, 2017, which was set aside by this Court", the plea said.
It said that the Section 3(7) of the Tribunals Act which mandates the recommendation of a panel of two names by the search-cum selection committee to the Central Government violates the principles of separation of powers and judicial independence.
"Section 3 (7) thereby contravenes Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution and is identical to Section 184 (7) of the Finance Act, 2017 which was set aside in Madras Bar Association-IV (MBA-IV) versus Union of India-2021 verdict", the plea said.
Ramesh said that the said provision of the impugned Act in so far as it grants discretion to the Central Government to take a decision on the recommendations made by that Committee, preferably within three months from the date of such recommendation is also unconstitutional and violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
"The impugned provision entirely nullifies the directions of this Court in Madras Bar Association versus Union of India (MBA-III), which directed the Union to make appointments to tribunals within three months from the date on which the Search-cum-Selection Committee completes the selection process and makes its recommendations", it said.
It said that another provision Section 5 of the impugned Act, in so far as it fixes the tenure of the Chairperson and Member to a manifestly short tenure of four years, adversely impacts judicial independence and violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
Ramesh further said that section 7 (1) of the impugned Act which allows the government its own discretion to fix HRA other than in conformity with the parameters as set by this Court in MBA-IV verdict violates the security of services conditions of appointees, the principles of judicial independence and thereby Article 14 of the Constitution.
The plea said that the interpretation as to whether the impugned provisions violate Article 14 and Part III of the Constitution vests solely in the judicial domain and the ensuing directions of this Court in Madras Bar Association case are binding on Parliament.
"The passage of the impugned provisions is therefore a transgression of the constitutional limits of Parliament's legislative power and undermines the power of judicial review and the Supremacy of the Constitution, which are basic features of the Constitution as repeatedly held by this Court," it said.
Ramesh said that the proviso to Section 3(1) and Sections 3(7), 5 and 7 (1) of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 are identical to corresponding Sections 184 (1), 184 (7) and 184 (11) of the Finance Act 2017 which were set aside by this Court in July in MBA-IV verdict for violating the principles of judicial independence, separation of powers and Article 14 of the Constitution.
"The impugned provisions are therefore an unconstitutional legislative override of the judgement of this Court which held identical provisions to violate Part III of the Constitution, without legislatively curing the defect," his plea said.
The Member of Parliament in Rajya Sabha further said, "The impugned provisions, and the repeated failure of the Respondents (Centre) to comply with the directions of this Court, undermine the rule of law, the equal protection of law, the independence of the judiciary, and the principle of separation of powers that are fundamental guarantees under Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution".