NEW DELHI:Concerned over the increasing pendency of cases in various tribunals across the country, the Ministry of Law and Justice plans to set up a data bank of eligible candidates so that vacancies can be quickly filled up.
The ministry’s initiative comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent remarks about the functioning of tribunals vis-a-vis regular courts. Modi had expressed concern over the functioning of the tribunals and how they are not inspiring confidence of stakeholders.
A law ministry official, who was part of a meeting held last week to explore ways of cutting down vacancies in tribunals, said, “The process is very long. To some extent, even the officers are responsible, litigation is going on regarding promotions and courts are taking a long time to settle them. Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) is taking two years to decide whether candidates require to be called or not and sometimes courts stay the recruitment process. It takes almost 18 months to fill up a post. ”
Such a delay is impacting the efficacy of the tribunals and most of them are reeling under huge pendency. The ministry has now decided that the process of filling up vacancies will be initiated—except in the case of vacancies which cannot be anticipated well in advance, like due to resignation or death—so that the gap between the occurrence of a vacancy and another appointment is not more than a month.
Efforts will be made to declare the list of selected candidates at least six months before the date of occurrence of the vacancy. The ministry believes that until such measures are taken, the situation is not going to improve. It further that such advance action for filling vacancies should also be taken in respect of organisations falling within the administrative control of the ministry.
“The process of selection needs not only to be shortened but the bottlenecks have to be removed. It was decided that all the agencies like concerned departments, UPSC and DoPT sit together to find ways to address the issue. The time can be reduced by making greater use of IT applications, so that processes can be completed in shortest possible time-frame,” the official added.
During the meeting, it was also highlighted that the number of appeals filed in 2014 is higher than the number disposed off, which is an indication that pendency is increasing at a higher rate. For example, there are 63 sanctioned benches of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) wherein the required strength of members is 126. It has 78 members and some of the benches are not functioning regularly.
At the beginning of 2013, the pendency of appeals at ITAT was 70,820 with 87 working members. In 2014, it rose to 83,732 with 78 members working.
Similarly, the Appellate Tribunal for Foreign Exchange (ATFE) that was established to hear FEMA cases is also does not have its sanctioned strength of one chairman and members not exceeding four. However, at present, it is functioning with one chairman and two members and has 928 appeals pending.
Pendency of cases as on December 31, 2014
Central Administrative Tribunal: 1,55,118
Income Tax Appellate Tribunal: 99,349
Customs, Excise, Service Tax Tribunal: 96,039
Railway Claims Tribunal: 44,756
Armed Forces Tribunal: 15,603
Company Law Board: 4,201
National Green Tribunal: 2,875