The recent trend of setting up tribunals in various sectors to lighten High Courts’ burden and speed up decisions suffered a setback again when the Supreme Court struck down the National Tax Tribunal Act on grounds that it encroached upon the power of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers.
Madras Bar Association v. Union of India
Issue arises before the Court pertains to the constitutional validity of the National Tax Tribunal Act, 2005 (hereinafter referred to as, the NTT Act). Simultaneously, the constitutional validity of the Constitution (Forty-second Amendment) Act, 1976 has been assailed, by asserting, that the same violates the basic structure of the Constitution of India (hereinafter referred to as, the Constitution), by impinging on the power of “judicial review” vested in the High Court. In the event of this Court not acceding to the aforementioned prayers, a challenge in the alternative has been raised to various provisions of the NTT Act, which has led to the constitution of the National Tax Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as, the NTT). The NTT, according to the learned counsel for the petitioners, is styled as a quasi-judicial appellate tribunal. It has been vested with the power of adjudicating appeals arising from orders passed by Appellate Tribunals (constituted under the Income Tax Act, the Customs Act, 1962, and the Central Excise Act, 1944). Hitherto before, the instant jurisdiction was vested with High Courts. The pointed issue canvassed in this behalf is, that High Courts which discharge judicial functions, cannot be substituted by an extra-judicial body. Additionally, it is maintained that the NTT in the manner of its constitution undermines a process of independence and fairness, which are sine qua non of an adjudicatory authority.
Supreme Court struck down the National Tax Tribunal Act on grounds that it encroached upon the power of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers.