The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the law and justice ministry to conduct a judicial impact assessment of all tribunals referred to in the Finance Act of 2017 at the earliest while observing that the ministry is yet to conduct it despite a 2019 apex court direction.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli noted that in a judgment delivered on November 13, 2019, in the Roger Mathew case, the apex court had directed the Centre to conduct a judicial impact assessment of certain tribunals.
It said an assessment such as the one directed to be conducted by the apex court would only shed light on the impediments faced in the delivery of justice.
“The lack of an assessment precludes any well-informed, intelligent action concerning tribunals in the country (as a whole). This, in turn, has cascading effects for the citizenry, which is deprived of a well-oiled machinery by which it can access justice,” the bench said.
“We therefore reiterate the directions of this court in Rojer Mathew… and direct the Ministry of Law and Justice to conduct a judicial impact assessment at the earliest,” it said in a verdict which held that provisions of the Constitution does not preclude the Centre from abolishing state administrative tribunals and upheld a decision to abolish the Orissa Administrative Tribunal (OAT).
The bench observed that the 2019 direction to conduct a judicial impact assessment was of a general nature and it was not geared towards proposals to abolish specific tribunals such as the OAT.
It said the assessment was also directed to be conducted in order to better understand the case load, efficacy, financial impact, and accessibility of tribunals at large, in addition to the filling of vacancies.
The bench noted that the 2019 verdict did not contain a direction to the effect that a tribunal shall not be abolished in the absence of a judicial impact assessment.
“The judgment was delivered on November 13, 2019. More than three years have since passed and the Ministry of Law and Justice is yet to conduct a judicial impact assessment,” it said.