Baljit Dhaka


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Why in News?

The Delhi High Court has held that the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which adjudicates service matters, can exercise the same jurisdiction and powers, as a High Court, in respect of its contempt proceedings.  

Central  Administrative Tribunal (CAT)

Part XIV-A of the constitution provides for the tribunals. The provision was added through the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.

Article 323A and 323B provide for Administrative Tribunals and Tribunals related to other matters respectively.

CAT was established under Article 323A of the Constitution.

It is a multi-member body consisting of a Chairman and members.

It was established in 1985 under Section 29 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.

The Principal seat of the Central Administrative Tribunal is at New Delhi and it has 16 Outlying Benches scattered all over the Country.  

The tribunal comprises of a Chairman and 65 members.

33 from judicial (including the chairman) and 33 from the administrative stream.

The chairman is normally a retired chief justice of the High Court.

The tribunal adjudicates disputes and complaints concerning Recruitment and Conditions of Service of the persons appointed to the Public Services and Posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or any State or any other Local Authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the GoI.

Apart from the above the Tribunal also has jurisdiction over the employees of 208 Public Sector Undertakings/Organizations notified by the Government.

Various Laws regarding CoC:

Supreme Court in its 2001 judgment has held that Section 17 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, confers jurisdiction on the CAT to punish for its contempt.

The Court has iterated that Article 323A of the Constitution of India and Section 17 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 empowers the CAT itself to exercise the same jurisdiction, powers, and authority in respect of its contempt as a high court in terms of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.

Section 15(2) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, however, will not have any application in the context of contempt at CAT, it further held.

The Court also recorded that the CAT itself has framed the Contempt of Courts (CAT) Rules, 1992 for initiation of criminal contempt as well as suo motu contempt proceedings. 

The need for Contempt Power with CAT:

Effectiveness: In the past, there were efforts to strip the CAT of its powers of contempt. However, such efforts remained fruitless. Here. the power of contempt works as the teeth of the CAT. This is one of the reasons that CAT has performed well.

Time-bound legal remedy: In-service matters like promotion, payment of salary, fixation of seniority, payment of a pension or medical expenses, etc, there has to be time-bound action. 

If the relief granted by the Tribunal is not implemented in time, it may become meaningless.

Quick implementation: A power of contempt keeps the decision implementation possible and thus helps employees get quick legal remedies.

Reduces burden on regular courts: The cases are resolved at the Tribunal level. Hence HIgh Courts are relieved because CAT and other tribunals bring down their workload.