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'Govt exploring ways to bring in tribunals under one ministry'

A constitution bench had suggested the government to think about bringing tribunals under administrative control of the Ministry of Law and Justice, an official said.



New Delhi: The government is exploring the possibility of bringing in different tribunals under administrative control of one ministry for better administration, a top official said on Monday.

Law Secretary P K Malhotra said the government has constituted several appellate tribunals in many areas including indirect taxes, central administrative tribunal and debt recovery tribunal and "a time has come to review whether functions of these tribunals can be clubbed together and put under the administrative control of one ministry for better administration".

He was speaking at the platinum jubilee celebrations of Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) here.

A constitution bench, the secretary said, had suggested the government to think about bringing tribunals under administrative control of the Ministry of Law and Justice.

He said that the "government is working in that direction (bringing tribunals under one ministry) and we are likely to come up with concrete proposals in this regard".

Last year, the Law Ministry had issued reminders to all central ministries and departments to give details of the number of tribunals working under them. It had also sought a response on how many of them can be merged to bring down their number.

From nearly 37 tribunals, Law Ministry plans to bring down the number to 15 as several are performing identical functions.

There are nearly 37 tribunals functioning in the country dealing with subjects such as income tax, electricity, consumer protection, company laws and railway accidents.

Malhotra also said that as much as Rs 3 lakh crore of revenue is locked up in tax tribunals and there is a need to streamline the procedure for speedy disposal of disputes "so that revenue is not blocked in litigation".

Further he said that although the tribunals were constituted to expedite adjudication, they started following the procedures of the courts, specially with regard to evidence, leading to delays in disposing the cases.

The Secretary said that the ITAT should introspect about the improvements required for quick disposal of pending cases.

Government on its part is making all efforts, including filling of vacancies and improving infrastructure for smooth working, he said, adding "if we have to achieve these objectives (high economic growth), our dispute settlement mechanism has to be simple, contract enforcement has to be much easier and procedural requirements has to be minimised".

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