High Court (India)

June 12, 2019

Additional Solicitor General Tells Madras HC That Lawyers Have No Right To Be Appointed GST Appellate Tribunal Judges

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


Lawyers do not have any right to be appointed as judges of tribunals, including the GST Appellate Tribunal, unless a statute specifically provides for the same, Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan told the Madras High Court.

The argument was made countering a plea by the Revenue Bar Association (RBA) which had challenged Sections 109 and 110 of Chapter XVIII of the Central Goods and Services Tax (GST) Act as well as corresponding provisions in the state Act.

It was argued that the exclusion of advocates from being appointed as judges of GST Appellate Tribunals is “unconstitutional”.

These arguments were contested by Tamil Nadu’s Additional Solicitor General G Rajagopalan who stated that a lawyer’s right to practice under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution does not include the right to be appointed a judge.

He argued that unless the statute specifically provides for it, the appointment of lawyers as judges of tribunals would be illegal, adding that tribunals are constituted to perform quasi-judicial functions.

However, the Madras High Court bench hearing the argument queried whether lawyers could be excluded altogether from being considered for appointment as judges to GST tribunals.

One of the judges of the bench hearing the argument, namely Justice Manikumar, stated that there is a difference between the right to be appointed a judge and the right to be considered for appointment as a judge.

Another judge of the same bench, Justice Prasad pointed out that the exclusion of lawyers from being considered as tribunal judges is a deviation from the norm and this being the case, there should be an explanation for such a deviation.

Responding to this, Additional Solicitor General Rajagopalan stated that he would file an affidavit about the issue if the bench needed any further explanation on this aspect.

The bench emphasized that the contentious issue did not lie with the appointment of administrative members to GST tribunals, but on whether there could be a predominance of administrative members over judicial members.

The matter will be taken up after a week, when arguments are expected to be made on behalf of the Ministry of Finance and the GST Council.

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