How is The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) Exercising its Powers as an Independent Judicial Authority?

Updated August 8, 2022

The functioning of CAT as Independent Judicial Authority in service matters of govt. employees is much needed evolution. The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) which was established for Redressal of Grievances and Complains by or Against Central Government Employees nowadays is exercising its powers as an Independent Judicial Authority. To understand the shift, you need to revisit the evolution chronology.

The Administrative Tribunals Act,1985 empowers the central government to establish the Central Administrative Tribunal and the State Administrative Tribunals. A new Part XIV-A of the constitution was added through the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. This part consists of Article 323A and 323B which empowers the parliament to provide for the establishment of Administrative Tribunals and Tribunals related to other matters respectively.

The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) exercises its jurisdiction for the adjudication of disputes with respect to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or other local authorities within the territory of India. This was done in pursuance of the amendment of Constitution of India by Articles 323A.

It is necessary to analyze the provision of two sections 14 and 2 of the AT Act. Section 14 specifies the categories of the persons in respect of whom and the subject-matters in relation to which, the jurisdiction of the Tribunal extends. While the other excludes the operation of the Act and consequently bars the jurisdiction of the Tribunal in respect of certain categories of persons specified therein.

Jurisdiction of the Tribunal in Relation to Parties

The following categories of civil servants fall within the scope of jurisdiction of Central Administrative Tribunal-

Members of the All India Services- The dispute or controversy related to the recruitment or other service matters of an officer of the All India Service fall under the jurisdiction of the Central Administrative Tribunals.

Persons Belonging to the Civil Services of the Union or Holding any Civil Posts under the Union- The dispute of these parties is the subject to the jurisdiction of the Central Administrative Tribunals. The two expressions “Civil services of the Union” and “Civil post under the Union” are also used in Article 311(1) of the constitution wherein certain procedural safeguards are laid down, which apply in matters of punishments of the way of reduction in rank, dismissal and removal of the parties.

Persons Appointed to Civil Posts Connected with Defence or Civilians in Defence- There are two categories of civil servants under the Government. Both the categories of civil servants fall within the jurisdiction of Central Administrative Tribunals. One class consists of those who are working on the defence side and the other one is that which is engaged on the civil side of the administration.

Persons Employed in any Local or Other Authorities- The Act provides the Central Government to extend the jurisdiction of the Central Administrative Tribunal, which includes the employees of any local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India, provided such local or other authority is not controlled or owned by a State Government.

Persons Employed in any Corporation or a Society- The provisions of the Act also empowers the Central Government under section 14(2) to extend the jurisdiction of the Central Administrative Tribunal in respect of the employees of any corporation or a society which is “owned or controlled by the Government”.

The Jurisdiction in Relation to Subject-matter

It becomes necessary to examine the jurisdiction of the Tribunal in relation to the subject-matters. The two categories of subject-matters, namely, “recruitment and matters concerning recruitment”, and “conditions of service”, fall within its purview.

Recruitment and Matters Concerning Recruitment- The expression “recruitment and matters concerning recruitment” refer to the entire process of securing an appointment to any post or service. It pertains a diverse variety of matters, such as the creation of a post or service, prescribing qualifications, inviting applications, reservation of posts, making and approving final selection, etc. Any dispute arising at the time of recruitment would fall within the purview of Tribunal’s Jurisdiction.

Service Matters- All service matters of the persons appointed to any service or post-fall within the jurisdiction of CAT. In the provision “service matters” means all matters relating to the conditions of service as respects –

(a) remuneration, including allowances, pensions, and other retirement benefits;
(b) tenure, including confirmation, seniority, promotion, reversion, premature retirement and superannuation;
(c) leave of any kind;
(d) disciplinary matters

Exceptions: Where The Jurisdiction Will not Apply

Section 2 prevents the Act to exercise its power over certain specified categories of person. As such, no Tribunal can exercise any jurisdiction, powers and authority over these persons. This section covers the three broad categories of Government servants.

(a) Members of Armed Forces of the Union
(b) Members and Staff of the Judiciary
(c) Members of the Secretarial Staff of the Legislatures

The functioning of CAT as an Independent Judicial Authority

Article 323 A authorises the parliament to take out the adjudication of disputes relating to service matters from the civil courts and the high courts and place it before the administrative tribunals.

The expertise members are drawn from both judicial and administrative streams which benefit the CAT in the adjudication of disputes.

In a case, the CAT took a dim view or poor view at Delhi High Court in respect of its contempt proceeding because during June vacations the High Court has heard briefly a case which was originally pending before the tribunal.

In its order, the tribunal indicated that such an order was “unwarranted” & against the dignity of the judicial process & judicial functionaries.

In cases praying for regularization of services, the Tribunal usually goes very core of the policy on the regularization of the government in specific cases.

It advises the concerned Ministry or Department on how to change the policy on the regularization of services, as such cases were filed mainly by impoverished Group-C employees.

Recently, the Delhi High Court has held that the CAT can exercise the same jurisdiction and powers, as a High Court, in respect of its contempt proceedings. Thus, it gave more power to act as an independent judicial authority.

Beyond CAT as an Independent Authority Under General Studies  

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