New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has initiated the process of pruning the number of tribunals functioning in the country as many of them are performing "identical functions".
The move is in tune with Modi's policy of doing away with laws and procedures which create confusion and obstruct smooth governance.
The Department of Legal Affairs in the Law Ministry has written to all Union ministries and departments to furnish details of tribunals functioning under their administrative control and explain the "possibility of merging the functions of tribunals with some other tribunals".
The Law Ministry is of the view that there is a possibility that some of the tribunals can be "converged/ merged" to avoid "overlapping/identical functions" being discharged by them. There are over 35 tribunals functioning in the country dealing with subjects such as income tax, electricity, consumer protection, company laws and railway accidents.
The move by the government comes close on the heels of a proposal floated by the Water Resources Ministry some time back to amend the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, to scrap the five inter-state water dispute resolution tribunals and replace them with a single permanent tribunal.
The move to scrap the existing tribunals and replace them with one body was first mooted by the then Law Minister M Veerappa Moily in 2011.
The Water Resources Ministry plans to have a 'standing tribunal' for the purpose which would have several members. The members could be posted to various benches and one bench of three members could deal with more than one dispute.
A few years ago, the Law Ministry had sought administrative control over all tribunals functioning in the country citing a 1997 Supreme Court order in the L Chandra Kumar Vs Union of India case, which had said, "We are of the view that, until a wholly independent agency for the administration of all such tribunals can be set-up, it is desirable that all such tribunals should be, as far as possible, under a single nodal ministry which will be in a position to oversee the working of these tribunals.
"For a number of reasons, that ministry should appropriately be the Ministry of Law." But amid protests by various ministries, the proposal failed to take off.