Central Government Notifies Tribunal Reforms Ordinance, 2021
On 4 April 2021, a gazette notification was issued by the Central Government regarding the promulgation of the ordinance that also intimates that the ordinance has come into effect at once.
The President of India has promulgated the Tribunals Reforms (Rationalization and Conditions of Service) Ordinance, 2021 (Ordinance 2021). As per the Ordinance, 2021 the High Courts have replaced the appellate authorities under nine Acts. The right to hear appeals under the statute has been conferred to High Courts.
The ordinance has also introduced certain amendments to the Finance Act, 2017, concerning the qualifications and tenure of the Chairperson and members of Tribunals.
Following are the amendments introduced to the nine statutes by the Ordinance 2021.
Earlier, the Appellate Tribunal was empowered to hear appeals against decisions of the Censor Board, now the High Court having the jurisdiction will hear appeals against decisions of the Board.
The ordinance omits Section 2(h) which deals with the Appellate Tribunal. Section 7C has been modified that dealt with the appellate powers of the Appellate Tribunal, the term 'Appellate Tribunal' has been substituted with "High Court".
Copyright Act, 1957
The Appellate Board under the Copyright Act has been abolished. Earlier, the Board was empowered to hear appeals against orders of the Registrar of Copyrights.
The ordinance introduced substitution of the Appellate Board with Commercial Courts/ High Courts. A new provision has been inserted into the Copyright Act defining 'Commercial Court'.
Now, the power to hear appeals against the orders of the Registrar of Copyrights will vets with a Single Judge of the High Court.
Customs Act, 1962
The Appellate Authority has been substituted by the High Court, the authority was earlier empowered to hear appeals against decisions of the Customs Authority for Advance Rulings. The power to hear appeals has now shifted to the High Court.
Patents Act, 1970
The Appellate Board has been abolished now, previously Section 117A of the Patents Act, empowered the Appellate Board to hear appeals against decisions, orders, or directions of the Controller General of Patents, Designs. and Trade Marks or the Central Government. Now the said power is vested with the High Court having jurisdiction.
Airports Authority of India Act, 1994
The Airport Appellate Tribunal was omitted [Section 28I of the Airport Authority of India Act]. Earlier, the Airport Appellate Tribunal was empowered to hear appeals against orders of the eviction officer. Now, the High Court has the said power.
Trade Marks Act, 1999
Section 83 of the Trade Marks Act was omitted and the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) has been abolished now. The power of the board i.e. to hear appeals has been transferred to the High Court.
Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration And Protection) Act, 1999
The Appellate Board contemplated under this Act has been replaced by the High Court.
Protection of Plant Varieties And Farmers' Rights Act, 2001
The ordinance has abolished the Plant Varieties Protection Appellate Tribunal established under Section 54 of the Protection of Plant Varieties And Farmers' Rights Act, 2001.
As per Section 56 of the Act the Appellate Tribunal was 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 now vested with the concerned High Court.
Control of National Highways (Land And Traffic) Act, 2002
The power to entertain appeals under this Act, earlier vested with the Airport Appellate Tribunal has been transferred to the principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction in a district, which includes the High Court in the exercise of its ordinary original civil jurisdiction.
Finance Act, 2017
Section 184 of the Finance Act, 2017 empowers the Central Government to formulate rules for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salaries and allowance, resignation, removal, and other terms and conditions of service of Members of Tribunals.
The ordinance provides the appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the Tribunals by the Central Government based on the recommendation of a Search-cum-Selection Committee. It introduces a provision that provides that the Committee shall be headed by the Chief Justice of India or a Judge of Supreme Court nominated by him.
It further provides the following key points amending the Act-
• The Chairperson of a Tribunal shall hold office for a term of 4 years or till he attains the age of 70 years, whichever is earlier;
• Other Members of a Tribunal shall hold office for a term of 4 years or till he attains the age of 67 years, whichever is earlier.