While hearing an election petition on the recounting of votes in a 2016 election to the Radhapuram AS Assembly Constituency, an interesting discussion cropped up before the bench comprising Justices Kaul and AS Oka, where:
Justice Kaul: I have no hesitation in saying, there’s a saying that it’s become a haven for retired bureaucrats and judges. Tribunals must be with specialists. For eg. in Tax tribunals, you pick up specialists. Similarly, armed forces tribunals. There’s a balance between judges and armed forces tribunals. It, by and large, has worked. But we have so many tribunals today.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi: Income tax Tribunals and CESTAT works the best. A statutory appeal against every tribunal comes to the Supreme Court. It will clog the Supreme Court. An electricity appeal comes to the Supreme Court.
Another Senior Advocate: It should not be that way at all. Tribunal should not have first appeal to the Supreme Court.
Justice Kaul: Some matters from the specialised tribunals, when they reach the top court, a lot of time goes into it.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi: With all due respect, I think Retired Judge Syndrome must end. You have an electricity Tribunal, there’s a judge. He’s never dealt with an electricity case in his life. You go to TDSAT, the judge may not know much (in that area). It takes him a year to understand what it is.
Senior Advocate P Wilson: Also, the limitation period must be taken seriously.
Justice Kaul: If I may say so, limitation within however time has to be taken seriously. So many statutes provide for limitation. When these are the volumes, either you have specialised forums or tribunals. When the forums are made, they are not manned. People are not appointed to those forums…May be there can be specialized election tribunals manned by retired judges who will take them up and do so. But if I am to say so, by the time tribunals are appointed, members will not be appointed… Some out-of-the-box thinking is necessary. You can’t decide so many cases even if you double or triple the strength.