Central Administrative Tribunal

From Justice Definitions Project


“Administrative tribunals aim to ensure justice, fairness, and efficiency in the resolution of cases,…”

In contrast to regular courts, administrative tribunals focus on specific areas such as taxation, labor, environment, and other administrative matters. They are designed to offer a more accessible, cost-effective, and specialized forum for adjudicating disputes arising from decisions made by administrative authorities. The establishment of administrative tribunals reflects a broader trend in administrative law toward creating specialized bodies that can address the intricacies of modern governance. The evolution of these tribunals has been shaped by legal precedents, legislative enactments, and the recognition of the need for a streamlined mechanism to handle disputes arising from administrative decisions. As a key component of India's legal system, administrative tribunals contribute to the effective functioning of the government while upholding the principles of justice and accountability.

The term ‘administration’ means the function of executive bodies to govern the nation or a specified territory. Therefore the term ‘administrative tribunal’ generally means a quasi-judicial body for adjudication of cases related to administration. There are certain general characteristics which are as follows:-

  • Statutory origin
  • Similar (but not the same) powers of Courts
  • Not strictly bound by procedural laws
  • Abide by the Principle of Natural Justice
  • Availability of writ against it’s decision
  • Independent organ


  • Earlier times:  The concept of laissez-faire originally entailed limited government involvement, focused on national security. As societal needs evolved, a shift towards a welfare state occurred, expanding government control. This change overwhelmed traditional courts, leading to the establishment of tribunals to handle specific cases, such as administrative tribunals with quasi-judicial powers for executive actions. Administrative tribunals in India play a crucial role in the legal landscape, serving as specialized quasi-judicial bodies established to address disputes and grievances related to administrative and executive actions. These tribunals emerged as a response to the increasing complexity of governance and the need for expeditious resolution of disputes outside the traditional court system.
  • Initial Years (After 1947): In the initial years after independence in 1947, all administrative matters were dealt with within the realm of the general judiciary as there was a central administrative structure. But this led to a huge number of cases which increased the burden of regular courts. So there was the need to have a specialized court to deal with administrative matters.
  • Administrative Reform Commission (1969): In 1969, the Administrative Reform Commission proposed the establishment of civil service tribunals for both Central and State civil servants. Subsequently, the Central Government formed a committee in 1969, chaired by Justice J.C. Shah of the Supreme Court of India, which endorsed similar recommendations. The momentum for the creation of service tribunals continued in 1975 when the Swarn Singh Committee also advocated for their establishment.[1] Additionally, the Supreme Court of India, in the case of K.K. Dutta v. Union of India[2] in 1975, supported the idea of setting up service tribunals to alleviate the burden on courts caused by a surge in writ petitions and appeals related to service matters. During this period, various States took the initiative to establish their service tribunals. Notably, Andhra Pradesh set up its Service Tribunal in 1973 through the Thirty-second Constitution Amendment.[3]
  • 42nd Constitutional Amendment (1976): This constitutional amendment in 1976 was revolutionary as it introduced articles 323A and 323B which allowed Parliament and State Legislatures to establish administrative tribunals to adjudicate service matters. Article 323A allowed Parliament to establish it and Article 323B allowed State legislatures to establish similar tribunals for the same purpose.
  • Central Administrative Tribunals (1985): By Article 323A, Parliament passed the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985 which established Central Administrative Tribunal nationwide to deal with matters related to recruitment and other conditions of government services.
  • State Administrative Tribunals:  Similarly, by Article 323A and provisions of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, the Central government can establish State Administrative Tribunals (SATs) at the request of the respective State government to adjudicate administrative and service matters.
  • Joint Administrative Tribunals: As per Section 16 of the Act, multiple states have the option to request the establishment of a collective tribunal known as the Joint Administrative Tribunal (JAT). This tribunal is vested with the authority to perform administrative tribunal functions on behalf of the participating States.
  • L Chandra Kumar v. Union of India: In the significant case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, [4] the Court rendered various conclusions concerning the jurisdictional powers of tribunals formed under Articles 323A and 323B. So it overruled the decision of S.P. Sampath Kumar v. UOI[5] which held that the tribunal is the same as a court. The Supreme Court invalidated clause 2(d) of Article 323A and clause 3(d) of Article 323B, arguing that they excluded the jurisdiction of High Courts and the Supreme Court under Article 226/227 and 32, respectively. The Supreme Court's ruling established that tribunals created under Articles 323A and 323B would remain the primary courts in their designated areas. Litigants are prohibited from directly approaching High Courts, thereby bypassing the jurisdiction of the respective tribunal. This decision reinforced the status of tribunals as the initial adjudicating authorities in their specified domains.


Article 323A and Article 323B

Article 323A of the Indian Constitution empowers the Parliament to enact laws for the creation of administrative tribunals. These tribunals are designed to adjudicate disputes and complaints concerning the recruitment and service conditions of government employees, both at the Central and State levels. The scope of this article extends to cover employees of local or other authorities within India's territory, those under the control of the Government of India, or those associated with a government-owned or controlled corporation.

Article 323B of the Indian Constitution grants authority to both the Parliament and State Legislatures to institute tribunals for the resolution of disputes or complaints related to matters specified in clause (2) of Article 323B. Some of these matters include the levy, assessment, collection, and enforcement of taxes; foreign exchange and export; industrial and labor disputes; production, procurement, supply, and distribution of foodstuffs; and issues about rent regulation, control, and tenancy, among others. The legislation establishing such tribunals must clearly define their jurisdiction, powers, and procedural guidelines.

Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985

In alignment with the stipulations of Article 323A, Parliament enacted the Administrative Tribunal Act in 1985, encompassing all matters falling within the purview of clause (1) of Article 323-A. As per this legislation, the Act mandates the establishment of a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) at the national level and a State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) at the State level for each State.

The tribunal holds the authority to pronounce judgments on the constitutionality of pertinent laws and statutes as per the case of L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India.[4] The Act's jurisdiction extends to the entire nation concerning the Central Administrative Tribunal, while in the context of administrative tribunals for States, it applies to the entire country including the State of Jammu and Kashmir (Section 1).

The primary purpose of introducing the Administrative Tribunals Act,1985, was to address two key objectives.

  1. Relief from Court Congestion:
  • The Act aimed to alleviate congestion in regular courts by diverting certain categories of cases, specifically those related to service matters of government employees, to specialized administrative tribunals. By doing so, it intended to reduce the burden on traditional courts, allowing them to focus on other critical legal matters.

2. Expedited Resolution of Service Disputes:

  • Another significant goal was to facilitate the swift and efficient resolution of disputes about the service conditions of government servants. Administrative tribunals were envisioned as specialized bodies capable of providing speedier justice in matters related to recruitment, conditions of service, and other administrative issues concerning government employees.

In summary, the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 was introduced to streamline the adjudication process for service-related disputes, promoting efficiency and prompt resolution, while simultaneously relieving the regular courts of the excessive load of such cases.

Appointment and Qualification of Members

Section 6 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, delineates the provisions outlining the qualifications and appointment criteria for members of the administrative tribunals. The requirements for different positions are as follows:

  1. Chairman:
  • Must be or have been a judge of a High Court
  • Should have served as Vice Chairman for a minimum of two years
  • Held the position of Secretary to the Government of India
  • Occupied any other post with a pay scale equivalent to that of a secretary.

2. Vice-Chairman:

  • Is or has been a judge of the High Court
  • Has held the position of Secretary to the Government or any other post under the Central or State Governments with the same pay scale for at least two years
  • Has held the post of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India or an equivalent post for five years.

3. Judicial Member:

According to Rule 3(5)(b) of the Tribunal (Conditions of Service) Rules, 2021, an individual cannot be considered for the position of Judicial Member unless they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Has served as a Judge of a High Court.
  • Has held the position of Additional Secretary to the Government of India or an equivalent or higher post in the Department of Legal Affairs or the Legislative Department, including Member-Secretary, Law Commission of India.
  • Has, for a combined period of ten years, been a District Judge and Additional District Judge.
  • Has, for ten years, been an advocate with substantial experience in litigation related to service matters in the Central Administrative Tribunal, Armed Forces Tribunal, High Court, or Supreme Court.
  • Additionally, according to the proviso under Section 3(1) of the Tribunals Reforms Act, 2021, individuals who have not reached the age of 50 by the last date for submitting applications are not eligible for appointment as a Member.

4. Administrative Member:

  • Should have held the post of an Additional Secretary to the Government of India or an equivalent position for at least two years
  • Alternatively, has held the post of a Joint Secretary to the Government of India or an equivalent post
  • Has sufficient administrative experience.

The appointment of the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and other members is the prerogative of the President. Judicial Members are appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India. For State Tribunals, the President appoints the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and other members after consulting with the Governor of the respective State. A tribunal is composed of a chairman and a specified number of vice-chairmen and other members, as stipulated.

The President appoints members for central tribunals, while the Governor handles appointments for State tribunals. Each tribunal is comprised of a chairman, along with a suitable number of vice-chairmen, judicial members, and administrative members, as determined by the relevant government. Typically, a bench consists of one judicial member and one administrative member. If a deadlock occurs in decision-making within the benches, the matter is referred to the chairman for the decisive vote as per Section 26 of the Act.

New Appointment rules:

As per the new notification issued by the Department of Personnel and Training, new rules for the appointment of tribunal members are as follows:-

  1. Requirements: The selection, eligibility criteria, salary, and other terms and conditions for appointing a candidate will be determined by the guidelines outlined in the Tribunal (Conditions of Service) Rules, 2021.
  2. Selection Process: The Search-cum-Selection Committee, established under the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, will assess the applications to determine the suitability of candidates for the posts. This evaluation will consider the qualifications and experience of the candidates, and shortlisted individuals will undergo a personal interaction. The final selection will be based on an overall assessment by the Committee, considering qualifications, experience, and personal interaction.
  3. Re-appointment Criteria: Members of the Central Administrative Tribunal may be considered for re-appointment in a manner consistent with the original appointment process. The Committee will prioritize individuals shortlisted in response to the vacancy circular or otherwise. When evaluating suitability for re-appointment, the Committee will give extra consideration to the experience of individuals in the Tribunal, taking into account their performance while serving as a Member.


As per Section 8 of the legislation, the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and other tribunal members are appointed for a tenure lasting five years or until they reach the age of 65 years, applicable to the Chairman or Vice-Chairman, and the age of 62 years for other members.

Resignation and Removal

Section 9 of the Act outlines the procedure for the resignation of any member and the removal of members from their positions.

  1. Resignation: Members, including the Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and others, have the option to resign from their positions by submitting a written resignation to the President.
  2. Removal:

Salaries and other allowances

Section 10 of the Act pertains to the salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service for the Chairman and other Members, and it can be summarized as follows:

  • Salaries and Allowances:
    • The salaries and allowances, along with other terms and conditions of service, including pension, gratuity, and retirement benefits, for the Chairman and other Members, are determined by the Central Government.
  • Prescribed Terms:
    • The terms and conditions set by the Central Government are as prescribed, and they encompass various aspects of service.
  • Protection Against Disadvantage:
    • The Act ensures that neither the salary, allowances, nor any other terms and conditions of service for the Chairman or other Members can be altered to their disadvantage after their appointment.
  • Special Provision for Government Officers:
    • In the case where a serving Government officer is appointed as a Member, it is considered that they have retired from their previous service on the date they assume the role of Member.
    • However, their subsequent service as a Member can be counted as post-retirement re-employment, with the option to reckon it for pension and other retirement benefits in their previous service.


Section 22 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, outlines the powers and procedures of tribunals in the following manner:

  • Independence in Procedure: Tribunals are not obligated to adhere to the procedural rules outlined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. They possess the authority to regulate their procedure, but this must align with the principles of natural justice.
  • Expeditious Decision-Making: Tribunals are mandated to resolve applications and cases promptly. Each application is to be decided after a thorough examination of documents, consideration of written submissions, and listening to oral arguments.
  • Powers Equivalent to Civil Courts: Tribunals are vested with powers akin to civil courts under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, specifically about the following matters:
    • Summoning and compelling the attendance of individuals for examination under oath.
    • Production of documents.
    • Admission of evidence on affidavits.
    • Requesting public records or documents from any office under Sections 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872| Sections 129 and 130 of the Bharatiya Sakshya Adhiniyam, 2023
    • Issuing commissions for witness and document examination.
    • Reviewing their own decisions.
    • Adjudicating cases ex-parte.
    • Setting aside any ex-parte orders.
    • Any other matters as prescribed by the Central Government.

Rules prescribed by Central Government:

Following rules need to be followed in relation to the Central Administrative Tribunal:-

  1. The Central Administrative Tribunal (Procedure) rules, 1987
  2. The Central Administrative Tribunal Rules of Practice, 1993
  3. The Contempt of Courts (C.A.T.) Rules, 1992.
  4. Central Administrative Tribunal (Destruction of Records) Rules, 1990.
  5. Delegation of Disciplinary Authority Appellate Authority in the Central Administrative Tribunal Notification 2021
  6. Central Administrative Tribunal (Group ‘C’ Posts) Recruitment Rules, 2015.
  7. Central Administrative Tribunal (Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ Hindi Posts) Recruitment Rules, 2016.
  8. Recruitment Rules
  9. Central Administrative Tribunal (Senior Principal Private Secretary) Recruitment (Amendment) Rules, 2013.
  10. Central Administrative Tribunal (Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B’ Library Posts) Recruitment Rules, 2014.
  11. Central Administrative Tribunal Group A Post Rules, 2012.

Benches and Jurisdiction

Section 4 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, outlines the composition of the tribunals and benches in the following manner:

1. Composition of Tribunals:

  • Each tribunal is structured to include the following members:
    • Chairman
    • Vice Chairman
    • Judicial Members
    • Administrative Members

2. Constitution of Benches:

  • Every bench within a tribunal is required to have a minimum representation comprising at least one judicial member and one administrative member.

3. Designated Sitting Places:

  • Benches of the Central Tribunal are typically scheduled to sit at specified locations, including New Delhi, Allahabad, Calcutta, Madras, Bombay, and any other places as designated by the Central Government.

4. Transfer of Members:

  • The Chairman holds the authority to transfer the Vice Chairman or other members from one bench to another, providing a mechanism for flexibility in the allocation of members to different benches.

The Act mandates that each case be presented before a Bench comprising two members, one with a judicial background and the other with an administrative background. Despite this, the Act empowers the chairperson to assign specific cases to a Bench consisting of a single member. The Supreme Court asserts that this provision should be interpreted with the condition that only cases devoid of legal or constitutional interpretation issues can be designated by the chairperson for consideration by a single-member Bench, as established in the Mahabal Ram (Dr.) v. Indian Council of Agricultural Research.[6]

Section 14 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, defines the jurisdiction of the Central Administrative Tribunal. According to this section:

  1. Jurisdiction Over Recruitment:
  • The Central Tribunal, from the date of its establishment, is vested with jurisdiction, powers, and authority in matters related to the recruitment of any civil service of the Union or All India service, as well as civil posts under the Union or civilian employees of defense services.

2. Service Matters Jurisdiction:

  • The Central Tribunal has jurisdiction over all service matters concerning the employees mentioned above. This includes employees of any local or other authority within the territory of India, or under the control of the Government of India, or any corporation or society owned or controlled by the Government.

3. Jurisdiction Over Transferred Services:

  • Additionally, the Central Tribunal has jurisdiction over service matters concerning individuals whose services have been placed by the State Government, any local or other authority, or any corporation at the disposal of the Central Government.

Sanctioned Benches

There are a total of 19 sanctioned benches with a principal bench in New Delhi. The whole list of benches is as follows: Principal Bench (New Delhi), Ahmedabad Bench, Allahabad Bench, Bangalore Bench, Chandigarh Bench, Chennai Bench, Cuttack Bench, Ernakulam Bench, Guwahati Bench, Hyderabad Bench, Jabalpur Bench, Jaipur Bench, Jammu Bench, Jodhpur Bench, Kolkata Bench, Lucknow Bench, Mumbai Bench, Patna Bench, and the Srinagar Bench.


E- filing:

All the information needed is available on the official CAT (Central Administrative Tribunal) website. To initiate the filing process, the user must click on "e-filing" and then complete the registration process. The website provides specific case forms for various case types, such as OA, CP, RA, MA, PT, and others, which can be submitted through the e-filing window. This process is accessible to individuals, and the required documents should be filled out according to the guidelines outlined in the user manual available. Further information can be found in the FAQs section.


Users have the option of paying the application/petition fee using offline mode such as through demand draft/IPO at the filing counter. Additionally, petititioners must submit a hard copy of the petition/application at the filing counters, following the prevailing practice outlines by CAT, ACT. In the future, online payment through the Bharatkosh portal will be introduced.

E-cause list:

The Administrative Tribunal only releases a daily cause list in a PDF format for each bench on its website.

Causelist at CAT Principal Bench (New Delhi)
Causelist at CAT Principal Bench (New Delhi)

The cause list is fairly straightforward as it contains subject matter, stage, case name, and advocate/counsels appearing for the parties. It also carries information relating to several adjournments sought/given in the case listed.

Availability of case information:

In the respective websites of other CAT benches, there is a specific section named ‘Case Management’ where one can look for oral/final orders, daily orders, and case status of any case by specifying details like case number and type of case. For example Principal Bench CAT (New Delhi).

The Rules for video conferencing are determined by the respective bench through notification which is available on the website. For example, Ahmedabad. The Party-in-Person is required to indicate their preference for virtual participation via their own Desktop/Laptop Computer by 9:00 A.M. before the Court proceedings commence. The web link for the virtual session will be disseminated through the cause list, and the corresponding PIN/Password necessary for joining the Video-Conference will be communicated to the Party-in-Person or their Advocates via the registered email ID and/or Mobile number, as supplied by the concerned party. To request the PIN/Password, the Party-in-Person should send an email to the designated email address.

Disposal Standards:

Comprehensive statistical information is readily accessible on the homepage of each CAT bench. Taking the CAT Ahmedabad bench as an example, a pie chart provides an overview of the current case status by giving statistics like pending cases, disposed cases, cases filed today, and total filed cases.

Disposal Chart at CAT Ahmedabad Bench

This visual representation offers a quick insight into the overall caseload, showcasing the number of pending and disposed cases, along with the latest filings for the day.


  • Lack of specified procedure and specialized members: Administrative adjudicatory bodies operate without a strict set of rules and procedures, raising the risk of violating the principles of natural justice. The importance of providing training to personnel, including judicial, administrative, and technical members, who serve on tribunals cannot be overlooked. The Frank's Committee previously recommended such training, and the Law Commission has emphasized its necessity.[7]
  • Scope of Arbitrariness: Unlike civil and criminal courts adhering to a uniform code of procedure (C.P.C and Cr. P.C respectively), administrative tribunals lack such stringent procedures. They are permitted to formulate their processes, potentially resulting in arbitrariness in their operations. Besides that, over the past two decades, there has been a noticeable decline in moral values, accompanied by a surge in corruption and nepotism. Despite observations by the Supreme Court highlighting these concerns, corruption has grown significantly in the country, as evidenced by numerous scandals. The case of Shiv Sagar Tiwari v. Union of India[8] judicially acknowledges the prevalence of corruption, describing it as reaching its peak and eroding the democratic fabric of the nation. The selection of judicial personnel through certain State Public Service Commissions has been particularly disheartening, as these commissions have lost credibility over time. [7]
  • Absence of legal expertise: Members of administrative tribunals are not mandated to have a legal background; they might be experts in various fields but may lack the essential legal expertise crucial for resolving disputes. To enhance the efficiency of administrative tribunals, the current practice of appointing retired or soon-to-retire District Judges as judicial members is deemed unsatisfactory. These judges, who have not previously dealt with service matters during their tenure, are appointed late in their careers, allowing limited time and, in some cases, inclination to familiarize themselves with service jurisprudence. With a potential tenure of only two to three years, there is a proposal to recruit members of the Bar aged between 45 and 50. This age range offers a longer period for them to demonstrate their capabilities. To incentivize these judicial members, there is a suggestion that they be considered by the High Court of their respective States for appointment as judges, either in the quota reserved for members of the subordinate judiciary or under specific constitutional provisions if the former is not feasible. Such an arrangement would attract skilled individuals from the legal profession to the administrative tribunals, ensuring expertise in service matters is available to the High Court. Additionally, there is a recommendation to amend Section 8 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 to extend the initial term of members to ten years, renewable for an additional five years. [7]
  • Absence of constitutional safeguard: Members of administrative tribunals lack the constitutional protection afforded to judges of the High Court or Supreme Court.
  • Practice of appointment: The practice of appointing retired or soon-to-retire High Court Judges as Chairmen of State Administrative Tribunals and Vice-Chairmen of Central Administrative Tribunals has not proven to be satisfactory. Due to the extended retirement age of 85 for these positions, appointees typically serve for a brief period, often less than three years. It is suggested that sitting Judges of High Courts, with no less than one year of service left before retirement, be considered for these roles. This approach would provide them with a more practical four-year term, allowing sufficient time to acclimate to their responsibilities and contribute substantively. Additionally, it is proposed that Administrative Members should not be appointed as Vice-Chairmen of CAT or Chairmen of BAT under ordinary circumstances [7].


In a democracy governed by the rule of law, the only legitimate institution for dispensing justice is a court of law. Judicial review is not only an integral part of our legal system but also a fundamental and essential feature of the Constitution, which cannot be bypassed by establishing tribunals under Articles 323-A and 323-B. Any institutional mechanism or authority that undermines judicial review is detrimental to the basic structure of the Constitution. However, as long as an alternative institutional mechanism established by any Act is as effective as the High Court, it remains consistent with the Constitutional framework[3].

The foundation of judicial review and the effectiveness of adjudication relies on the faith of the people. Therefore, any alternative arrangement must be both effective and efficient. To instill confidence in the litigating public, there must be an assurance that those adjudicating their disputes are entirely free from influence or pressure from the executive. Preserving independence and impartiality necessitates that individuals appointed to tribunals possess a judicial and objective approach, along with adequate knowledge and legal training[5].

The concept of administrative tribunals has faced legal challenges, including issues related to the jurisdiction of tribunals and the constitutional validity of certain provisions. The Supreme Court of India has, over time, clarified and upheld the importance of administrative tribunals, emphasizing their role in providing specialized and speedy justice. The landscape of administrative tribunals in India continues to evolve, with periodic amendments and reforms aimed at improving efficiency and addressing emerging challenges.

In summary, the evolution of administrative tribunals in India is marked by a recognition of the need for specialized forums to adjudicate service and administrative disputes, leading to constitutional amendments, the establishment of the Central Administrative Tribunal, and subsequent developments at the State level. Legal challenges and reforms have shaped the functioning and jurisdiction of these tribunals over time. By incorporating needed changes to tackle challenges, administrative tribunals can become far more effective.


  1. Wikipedia. (2005). Administrative Reforms Commission Reports. http://arc.gov.in
  2. K.K. Dutta v. Union of India [AIR 1980 SC 2056]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Goel, S. (2014). Administrative Tribunals in India. SSRN Electronic Journal. https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2479241
  4. 4.0 4.1 L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 1125
  5. 5.0 5.1 S.P. Sampath Kumar v. UOI (AIR 1987 SC 386)
  6. Mahabal Ram (Dr.) v. Indian Council of Agricultural Research [1 (1994) 2 SCC 401].
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 India, L. C. of. (2014). Review of Functioning of Central Administrative Tribunal;Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal and Income Tax Appellate Tribunal. https://cdnbbsr.s3waas.gov.in/s3ca0daec69b5adc880fb464895726dbdf/uploads/2022/08/2022081079.pdf
  8. Shiv Sagar Tiwari v. Union of India (1997) 1 SCC 444
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