SC Upholds Validity of New Tribunal Rules 2020, Lawyers Can be Appointed as Member

On Friday, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities ( Qualifications, Conditions of Service and Experience of Members) Rules, 2020 with modifications and ordered the formation of National Tribunals Commission to supervise the functioning and appointment of tribunals.

The Bench held that 2020 rules would apply prospectively from February 12, 2020, and issued a host of new directions to govern tribunals and service conditions and appointments of tribunal members.

Hon’ble Court has also changed the composition of search and selection committees under the new 2020 Rules. 

As per the new modifications, the CJI or his nominee will get a casting vote while heading the new Committee.

The Court also appreciated the petitioner, Bar Association of Madras for their relentless efforts in ensuring the judicial independence of tribunals and also directed the Central government to adhere to the directions of this instant order.

The Supreme Court issued directions mentioned-below:-

  1. Till the time the National Tribunals Commission is formed, the Finance Ministry should establish a separate wing to cater to requirements of the Tribunals.
  2. Advocates who have ten years of experience will be eligible for appointment as judicial members. Indian Legal Services Members will also be eligible for appointment if they meet the criteria.
  3. The composition of Selection and Search committee has been modified and will now comprise of the following:-
  4. CJI or his nominee will be the Chairperson and will also have a casting vote.
  5. The Secretary to the Ministry of Law and Justice will be a member.
  6. The Secretary to Government of India from a department other than the sponsoring or parent department who is nominated by Cabinet Secretary-(Member)
  7. Secretary to the parent or sponsoring Department or Ministry-Member(without a vote)
  8. Rule 4(2) of 2020 Rules has been amended to provide Selection cum Search 
  9. The Committee shall recommend one person for an appointment instead of two or three posts.
  10.  Chairpersons, vice-chairpersons and other members of the tribunals shall hold the office for five years and will also be eligible for re-appointment.
  11. In matters of disciplinary actions, the recommendations of the Selection and Search committee would be final.
  12. While considering advocates for an appointment, the Committee will take into consideration the experience of the advocate and their specialisations.
  13. Appointments will be made within three months from the date when the Committee will complete the selection process.
  14. The new 2020 Rules will be prospective in nature and will be applicable from February 12 onwards.
  15. Appointments made prior to the 2020 rules or made during the pendency of Rojer Mathews will be governed by their respective statutes.
  16. Appointments made as per 2020 FRules till the date of the instant judgement will not be considered invalid if they conform to the recommendation of the Committee. Such appointments are upheld and will not be called into question by the Committee.
  17. Chairpersons, Member and Vice-Chairpersons appointed before new rules shall be governed by their parent statute.
  18. The new 2020 Rules will be applicable with modifications mentioned in the instant judgment.
  19. When reserving the judgment of this case, the Apex Court had extended the tenure of Chairpersons, vice-chairpersons and members till 31.12.2020. Given the final order, the retirement of such members will be done in accordance with applicable rules.

The ruling came in a petition filed by the Bar Association of Madras who had challenged the new rules on the ground that it violated the principle of Natural Justice.

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