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Indian Case Summary

S.P. Sampath Kumar Etc vs Union Of India & Ors on 9 December, 1986 – Case Summary

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In the case of S.P. Sampath Kumar Etc vs Union Of India & Ors on 9 December, 1986, the Supreme Court of India was presented with a significant challenge concerning the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985. The case was presided over by a bench consisting of Bhagwati, P.N. (CJ), Misra Rangnath, Khalid, V. (J), Oza, G.L. (J), Dutt, M.M. (J).

Facts of the Case

The case was brought forth by S.P. Sampath Kumar and others against the Union of India and others. The petitioners challenged the constitutional validity of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, specifically the exclusion of the jurisdiction of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 in service matters specified in Section 28 of the Act. They also questioned the composition of the Tribunal and the mode of appointment of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Members.

The Act, as amended by the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Ordinance, 1986, replaced by Act No. 19 of 1987, preserved the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 32 for original proceedings and under Article 136 for appeals. However, the petitioners argued that the qualifications and mode of appointment for the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Members were outside the power conferred on Parliament under Article 323-A.

Issues Raised

The primary issues raised in this case were:

  1. Whether the exclusion of the jurisdiction of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 in service matters specified in Section 28 of the Act was unconstitutional and void.
  2. Whether the composition of the Tribunal and the mode of appointment of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Members were outside the scope of the power conferred on Parliament under Article 323-A.

Court’s Observations

The court observed that the Administrative Tribunal was created as a substitute for the High Court, and its Chairman should, for all practical purposes, be equated with the office of the Chief Justice of a High Court. The court held that judicial review is a basic and essential feature of the Constitution, and no law passed by Parliament can abrogate it. However, Parliament can set up effective alternative institutional mechanisms or arrangements for judicial review, provided they are no less efficacious than the High Court.

The court also noted that the Chairman of the Administrative Tribunal should have been a Judge of a High Court or should have held the office of Vice-Chairman for at least two years. A person who has merely held the post of Secretary to the Government of India and who has no legal or judicial experience, if appointed Chairman, would not inspire confidence in the public mind and would render the Administrative Tribunal less effective than the High Court.

The court further observed that the appointment of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Administrative Members should be made by the Government only after consultation with the Chief Justice of India. This would ensure the same independence from the possibility of executive pressure or influence that is ensured to the Judges of the High Court.

Conclusion

The court allowed the petitions in part, striking down clause (c) of Section 6(1) of the Act as invalid. It held that the Chairman of the Administrative Tribunal should be or should have been a Judge of a High Court or should have held the office of Vice-Chairman for at least two years. The court also directed the Government to set up a permanent bench of the Administrative Tribunal wherever there is a seat of the High Court by 31st March 1987. The judgment was to operate only prospectively and not to invalidate appointments already made.