Administrative Tribunal- Meaning, Formation, Growth, Case Laws
Administrative Tribunal- Meaning, Formation, Growth, Case Laws

Administrative Tribunal- Meaning, Formation, Growth, Case Laws


  • Introduction
  • What is a Tribunal? Administrative Tribunal Defined
  • Constitutional recognition
  • The growth of administrative tribunal-Reasons
  • Inadequacy of judicial system
  • The judicial system is conservative, rigid and technical
  • Provisions for preventive measures
  • Effective enforcement of preventive measures
  • Departmental policies and other factors are considered
  • Need for expertise
  • Merits of the system of administrative adjudication
  • What is the difference between a court and a tribunal
  • Administrative Tribunal- The Characteristics
  • Case laws
  • Conclusion




The executive executes several quasi-legislative functions and quasi-judicial functions. It has been the duty of the judiciary to preside over disputes but today, the Government’s functions have increased thus having some functions of the judiciary being undertaken by the executive. Some of these functions include the imposition of fine, levy of penalty and confiscation of goods among others.

The State looks to make sure that social security and social welfare of the people are taken care of over the sovereign functions it has. It looks after the industrial relations, takes control over productions and begins many enterprises. Legal issues are not the only affairs that come about.

The ordinary courts cannot handle socio-economic affairs and neither can they preside over expeditious issues. Ordinary courts are supposed to follow the rules of procedure and evidence that are ever strict and technical. In that connection, administrative tribunals are formed to preside over quasi-judicial issues instead of ordinary courts of law.

What is a Tribunal? Administrative Tribunal Defined-

Tribunal is an administrative body that practices the power to adjudicate. They are not termed as ordinary courts. The word tribunal cannot be scientifically and precisely defined. In the dictionary, the word ‘tribunal’ is the seat or bench that a judge or judges sit in a court of justice. This definition is vast since it covers ordinary courts of law and when it comes to administrative law, the meaning is bound to adjudicating authorities besides ordinary courts of law.


Constitutional recognition-

Art. 136 of the Constitution recognizes the status of tribunals which gives power to the Supreme court to give a special leave to appeal from any judgment whatsoever, decree, determination, sentence or an order authorized by any tribunal in India. Likewise, Art. 227 gives power to every High Court to be superior over every tribunal in the areas they have jurisdiction over.

When Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi was in power and by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976, Art. 323-A and 323-B have been added in the Constitution through which the Parliament was authorized to include an administrative tribunal for the matters that arise from the service and adjudication of the matter mentioned therein.

A tribunal is an authority that adjudicates and the power of adjudication must be received from a statute and not from the agreement of parties.

Art. 136 or 127 of the Constitution has it that a tribunal is an adjudicating authority besides a Court given the judicial power of the State from a Statute or rule of statute.

Art. 227 provides that the following authorities are held to be tribunal:

  1. Election tribunal
  2. Industrial tribunal
  3. Revenue tribunal
  4. Rent Control Authority
  5. Income Tax Tribunal
  6. Railway Rates tribunal
  7. Panchayat Courts
  8. Payment of Wages Authority
  9. Statutory Arbitrator

At the same time these authorities are not tribunal:

  1. Domestic tribunal
  2. Conciliation Officer
  3. Military tribunal
  4. Private Arbitrator
  5. Customs Officer
  6. Advisory Board under Preventive Detention Laws


The growth of administrative tribunal-Reasons-

Dicey’s theory of Rule of Law states that legislative bodies are only for making laws. The ordinary Court of law is supposed to administer these laws. It is contrary to the doctrine of Separation of Power to establish an administrative tribunal.

However, things have evolved with the functions of government increasing and the ordinary Courts of Law are not equipped to handle situations and complex issues in the dynamic socio-economic world in the practical sense.

The ordinary courts are already overburdened and there are numerous reasons to that. The courts have to go through strict rules of procedures and evidence. The provision of a system of adjudication which was informal, inexpensive and fast is a great desire.

In the said situations, the following are the reasons why administrative tribunals are formed:

The inadequacy of the judicial system:

It has been proven that the traditional judicial system is inadequate to preside over every conflict that is in need of a resolution. It is slow, complex, costly, lacks expertise and very formal. It has been burdened excessively from the beginning and the fast execution of all matters should not be expected.
For instance, conflicts between employees and employers comprising of strikes and lockouts among others is an issue that cannot be settled only through the stern interpretation of the law. It calls for a number of factors to be considered which cannot come to a standing in a court of law. In that case, the establishment of the industrial tribunal and labor courts were brought about which have the methodologies and professionalism to deal with complex issues such as these.

The judicial system is conservative, rigid and technical:

Administrative authorities can do away with technicalities. This is because they take practical approaches instead of theoretical approaches. The traditional judiciary is out-dated, stern and technical. Unlike administrative tribunals that are not held by stern rules of evidence and procedure. They make use of practical aspects to settle practical issues.

Provision for preventive measures:

The ordinary courts have to wait until the conflicting parties appear before them as a result of their inability to take preventive measures. On the other end, administrative authorities can take preventive measures such as licensing and rate-fixing.

Many times, the preventive doings can turn out to be very effective and of use instead of giving a punishment to someone after he has done an offense in consideration of what the law provides.

Effective enforcement of preventive measures:

Administrative Authorities can undertake result producing processes to enforce the preventive measures that were mentioned earlier which may include suspension, revocation or cancellation of licenses and the destruction of contaminated articles among others. The courts of law normally do not have these solutions.

Departmental policies and other factors are considered:

Ordinary Courts of law make rulings after hearing parties and based on the evidence present in the records. Administrative authorities do not find these procedures to be right for making decisions where secrecy is given to them and the final ruling may be granted on departmental policies instead of factors that are relevant.

In the transformation of the socio-economic atmosphere, policy consideration can be applied when solving some modern cases where law, pure and simple concepts cannot be applied.

Need for expertise:

Disputes are naturally technical sometimes. It is not expected of the judicial system to take them in and preside over them. The judges have their expertise on the law but none of it in technical knowledge of technical conflicts.

Administrative tribunals on the other side of the coin, are handled by experts who can cater and solve such issues. Examples: Issues related to atomic energy.

Merits of the system of administrative adjudication:

Administrative adjudication system is inexpensive, fast and flexible. On the other hand, the judicial system is sluggish, complex and full of formalities.


What is the Difference between a Court and a Tribunal?

There are differences between a court and a tribunal just in the same way they both share some similarities. Some of these similarities are that both are constituted by the State, granted judicial powers and exist permanently. That makes the two bodies adjudicating bodies. When they deal with disputes, the results are their decisions in the disputes that touch the rights of the subjects.

Before looking into the differences, it is of importance to note that a tribunal is not the same as a court. The differences in between them make them two separate bodies even though a tribunal may have a few sentiments of the court. These are the points of difference:

A court of law is a constituent of the traditional judicial system which has its judicial powers received from the State. On the contrary, an administrative tribunal is an agency that the statute forms and is granted judicial powers. It is a constituent of an executive part of a State which practices judicial and executive functions thus the term quasi-judicial body.

Civil Courts have powers of the judiciary to put all suits of a civil kind into trial but not when the cognizance is barred either expressly or impliedly while tribunals have the authority to try cases of special affairs which are given to them by statutes.

In ordinary courts, judges are free from the executive because of their line of work whereas members of the administrative tribunal are totally under the authority of the executive.

The officer presiding over a case in the court of law is trained in law while the head or a member of a tribunal may not have the same training but may have more expertise in areas of administration.

A judge of a court of law is required to be non-partisan where he is not into the matter of the case whether directly or indirectly. On the other hand, the administrative tribunal may have a part in the dispute to be decided by the tribunal.

A court of law is held at bay by the rules of procedure and evidence while an administrative tribunal is not held by the mentioned rules but is held by the principle of natural justice. This makes the decision of a tribunal more of subjective than objective.

A court is held at bay by precedent, principles of res judicata and estoppel while an administrative tribunal is not held by those principles sternly. An administrative tribunal cannot decide ‘vires’ of a legislation while a court can.


Administrative Tribunal- The Characteristics-

A tribunal must have the following characteristics as set by the Supreme Court:

  1. It must have originated from a statute.
  2. It has some but not all elements of a court.
  3. It has been granted judicial powers by the State that allows it to undertake judicial and quasi-judicial functions.

An administrative tribunal has the powers of a Court when it comes to procedural matters such as to summon witnesses, administering the oath and so forth.

It is not held under stern rules of procedure and evidence.

The rulings of many tribunals are judicial instead of administrative even if they have to take records of findings of facts objectively and apply the law without regarding executive policy. Discretion is to be made use of objectively and judicially.

Majority of the administrative tribunals are not interested entirely with the cases a government is a part of. They also preside over cases between two private parties.

The tribunals are independent and they are not to be interfered with other administrations as they execute their judicial and quasi-judicial functions.

Against the rulings of administrative tribunals, prerogative writs of certiorari and prohibition are present.

They must sit in public.

A legal practitioner may represent a party but it is not a right.

The tribunal members are able enough to be judges.


Case Laws

Durga Shankar Mehta v. Raghuraj Singh, 1954, Tribunal was defined by the Supreme Court when it said that as used in Art. 136, the tribunal is not the same as ‘Court’ but entails all bodies that adjudicate on condition that they are constituted by the State and laid upon with judicial duties differentiated from administrative or executive duties.

In Bharat Bank Ltd. v. Employees, 1950, the Supreme Court maintained that tribunals are not courts even though they have court apparel and practice quasi-judicial functions.



The executive also performs legislative and quasi-judicial duties in the present day. Administrative tribunals are formed to preside over quasi-judicial affairs instead of ordinary judicial courts of law. The constitution has taken note of the status of tribunals. The power tribunals to adjudicate is received from a statute. The reasons for the establishment of tribunals range from its quickness, cost-effectiveness, and informality when according to justice.



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