Tribunals Reforms Bill Seeks Replacement Of Appellate Authorities with High Courts
The Central Government on 13 February 2021, moved the "Tribunals reform, Rationalization And Conditions Of Service Bill, 2021" (Bill) in the Lok Sabha. The Bill proposed significant amendments to 10 statutes wherein it sought replacement of the appellate authorities under various Acts and conferring the right to hear appeals on High Courts (HC).
The changes contemplated by the Bill to separate laws are mentioned below -
In the Cinematograph Act, the Appellate Tribunal is empowered to hear appeals against the decisions of the Censor Board. The Bill proposed to do away with the said power of the Appellate Tribunal. It recommended that the concerned HC is set to replace the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against decisions of the Board.
The Bill proposed the deletion of Section 2(h) of the Act that deals with the definition of the Appellate Tribunal. Further under Section 7C of the Act appellate powers on the Appellate Tribunal are conferred and the Bill proposed that the term 'Appellate Tribunal' will be substituted with "High Court".
Copyright Act, 1957
Similarly, the Bill proposed the abolition of the Appellate Board under the Copyright Act that is empowered to hear appeals against orders of the Registrar of Copyrights.
It proposed the substitution of the Appellate Board with Commercial Courts or High Courts. It recommended that there will be an insertion of a new provision into the Copyright Act defining 'Commercial Court' as, "Commercial Court, for the purposes of any State, means a Commercial Court constituted under Section 3, or the Commercial Division of a High Court constituted under Section 4 of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015."
Customs Act, 1962
Further, the Appellate Authority is sought to be abolished and substituted by the HC. The Authority is empowered to hear appeals against decisions of the Customs Authority for Advance Rulings.
Patents Act, 1970
The Bill seeks abolishment of the Appellate Board under the Act. As per Section 117A of the Patents Act, the Appellate Board is empowered to hear appeals against decisions, orders, or directions of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks or the Central government. The Bill now proposed to confer the said power to the HC.
Airports Authority of India Act, 1994
The Bill has sought to abolish the Airport Appellate Tribunal and suggested deletion of Section 28I of the Airport Authority of India Act. The Airport Appellate Tribunal is empowered to hear appeals against orders of the eviction officer.
Trade Marks Act, 1999
The Bill proposed to abolish the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) by deleting Section 83 of the Trade Marks Act. The power of IPAB, as in the case of other appellate tribunals, is sought to be replaced with the High Court.
Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration And Protection) Act, 1999
The Appellate Board contemplated under this Act is also sought to be replaced by the High Court.
Protection of Plant Varieties And Farmers' Rights Act, 2001
The Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal is to be abolished that is empowered to hear appeals against decisions of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority and the Registrar of Plant Varieties Registry. This power is proposed to be vested with the concerned High Court.
Control of National Highways (Land And Traffic) Act, 2002
The Bill sought abolishing of the Airport Appellate Tribunal under the Act and replace it with the principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction in a district, including the HC in the exercise of its ordinary original civil jurisdiction, will exercise the power to hear any order passed or any action taken by the Highway Administration or an officer authorised on its behalf.
Finance Act, 2017
The Bill seeks to insert a new provision, sub-section (11) in Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017. It seeks to reform the limit of tenure of the Chairman to a term of four years or till 70 years of age, whichever is earlier.
Besides, the entire Section 184 is proposed to be substituted by a new Section 184. The new provision lays down revised qualifications for appointment as Chairperson and members of a Tribunal. It also seeks to create a search-cum-selection committee for appointing the Chairperson and members of Tribunals.