Summary of L. Chandrakumar v. Union of India [AIR 1997 SC 1125]

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Brief facts of L. Chandrakumar v. Union of India

By the constitutional amendment (42nd) of 1916 Articles 323 A and 323 B were inserted into our constitution. Parliament with the power conferred by 323 A (1) enacted the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1956. The central Administrative Tribunal was established by this act Before the establishment of the tribunal, a number of writ petitions had been filed in the supreme court and various High courts, challenging the validity of 323 A, on the ground that it excludes the judicial review which is a basic structure of our constitution.

In Sampat Kumar case[i], the Supreme court held that vesting of power of judicial review of the High Court in an alternative mechanism is not a violation of the basic structure of constitution, as the power of supreme court exists and alternative mechanism is effective the cases which demanding reconsideration of Sampat Kumar decision are grouped together to consider some broad issues in present case

Issues in L. Chandrakumar v. Union of India

1) Whether the power conferred upon parliament by article 323 A (2) (d) or state legislature by 323 B (3) (d) of the col, to totally exclude jurisdiction of all courts except that of supreme court (under art. 136) in respect of matters referred in 323 A (1) or 323 B (2), runs counter to power of judicial review conferred on High courts under article 226/221 and supreme court under article 32 of Col?

2) Whether the tribunals constituted under article 323 A or 323 B possess the competence to test the constitutional validity of statutory provisions/rules?

3) Whether these tribunals, as their present function, can be said to be effective substitute for High courts in discharging the power of judicial review? If not, what are the changes required to move them conform to their founding objectives?

Summary of arguments of the petitioner

  1. A single-member bench of the Tribunal cannot be substituted to High Court
    1. Exclusion of jurisdiction of HCs and SC is unconstitutional
    2. In the Kesavananda Bharati case[ii], SC held that, only constitutional courts have power of judicial review of legislative action
    3. Parliament cannot confer power to exclude jurisdiction of HC as parliament cannot confer power to amend constitution to legislature
  2. Decision in Sampat Kumar case was on the hope of effectiveness of tribunals But it is neither factually nor legally correct.
  3. High courts enjoy vast power under Art 215, 132 and 133 Not so for tribunals.
  4. Qualification of appointment of High court judges and members of Tribunals are not comparable.
  5. Jurisdiction of High courts is constitutionally protected. But a tribunal can be simply abolished by repealing parent statute.
  6. For expenditure High courts depends state fund whereas tribunals depend on appropriate government.
  7. High courts have power to issue prerogative write under art 226/227. No tribunal located within the territorial jurisdiction of a High court can disregard the low declared by it.
  8. Practical problems facing by advocates to represent before tribunals.
  9. Intention of 42nd amendment of constitution was to vest constitutional jurisdiction in creatures whose establishment and functioning could be controlled by executives.
  10. In UOI v. Pratibha Bannerjea[iii], SC has analysed the special constitutional status of judges of High courts and explained how they are distinct from other tiers of judiciary. Such analysis is applicable between High courts with glorious tradition and Tribunals being new creation.
  11. Power of interpret provisions of constitution cannot be bestowed on newly treated quasi-judicial bodies which are susceptible to executive influences.

Summary of arguments of respondents

  1. Jurisdiction under article 32 was not indented to be affected.
  2. Articles 323 A and 323B do not seek to exclude supervisory jurisdiction of High courts over all tribunals situated within their territorial jurisdiction.
  3. Pendency in High courts is a problem. So should remedied rather striking down.
  4. Kesavananda Bharati case shows inherent distinction between individual provisions and basic features of constitution separation of power is one of the banc features. It is also applicable in judicial review.
  5. Even in case of violation of fundamental rights parties required to approach High courts (226/227) rather supreme court (32). Service masters, being comparatively lesser significant can be transferred to tribunals on some reason.
  6. By Order XXVII A, Rule 1A ordinary civil courts are empowered to adjudicate upon questions of statutory rules and instruments.
  7. The doctrine of reading down is applicable HCs would continue jurisdiction to decide vires of act even service disputes, perform supervisory role ever tribunals.
  8. In the absence of any specific constitutional prohibition, Parliament and state Legislature have legislative power to effect changes in original jurisdiction of high court and supreme court.
  9. The creation of an alternative mechanisms is not a violation of the basic structure as long as it is efficacious as courts. So, to ensure members of tribunal have the security of tenure for securing independence

The decision in L. Chandrakumar v. Union of India

Tribunals are competent to hear matters where vires of statutory provisions are questioned. Tribunal are not substitutes for Supreme court Or High court Their functions are supplementary. Their decisions are subjected to scrutiny before division bench of High court.

Tribunals have power to test vires of subordinate legislations and rules except that of parent statute.

Litigants will not directly approach High court in matters where they question vires of statutory legislations (exception mentioned) by overlooking jurisdiction of concerned tribunal

This decision came into effect prospectively i.e., prospectively overruled decision in Sampat Kumar case

Ratio Decidendi

The power of judicial review over legislative action vested in High courts and the Supreme court under articles 226 and 32, and the power of judicial superintendence over decisions of all courts and tribunals within their jurisdiction are basic structure of constitution.

There is no blanket prohibition on the conferment of judicial power upon courts other than the Supreme court in American practice.

It is very necessary to clear a backlog of pending cases which has assumed a colossal proportion.

Reasons for the establishment of tribunals till persist and have become more pronounced in recent times.

A judicious mix of judicial members and there with grass root experience would be better suited for the purpose of speedy and efficient discharge of Justice.


The decision of the Supreme court allowing tribunals (under Article 323 A&B) to function supplementary and parties to challenge decisions of tribunals before a division bench of the high court is a positive resolution as judicial review is basic structure of our constitution and it provides speedy trial to common people.



[i] 1987 SCR (3) 233 1987 SCC SUPL

[ii] (1973) 4 SCC 225; AIR 1973 SC 1461

[iii] 1996 AIR  693

This article is authored by Aswathy P. S., a student of Government law college Thrissur.

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