State Administrative Tribunal

From Justice Definitions Project


The State Administrative Tribunals (SAT) were established under Article 323A of the Indian Constitution to expedite the resolution of issues related to the service matters of State Government Officers and Employees. The Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 grants the Union government the authority to create State Administrative Tribunals (SATs) at the request of the respective State governments, contributing to the efficient functioning of the administrative machinery.

As of November 2023, there are 5 State Administrative Tribunals namely, Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal, Kerala State Administrative Tribunal, West Bengal Administrative Tribunal, Maharashtra State Administrative Tribunal, and Goa Administrative Tribunal. Other State Administrative Tribunals like Orissa State Administrative Tribunal and Himachal Pradesh State Administrative Tribunal have now been abolished.

Legislative Framework

Constitutional Provisions

Article 323A empowers the Parliament to establish Central Administrative Tribunals and State Administrative Tribunals for the adjudication of disputes and complaints regarding the recruitment and conditions of service of individuals appointed in public services. The addition of Article 323A to the Constitution occurred through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976. The Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 was enacted to provide detailed information on composition, functions, and powers. State Administrative Tribunals hold original jurisdiction over recruitment and all service matters involving state employees.

The State Administrative Tribunals (SAT) are established by the Central Government, under section 4(2) of the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985.


The objectives of the State Administrative Tribunal include alleviating court congestion, reducing the number of cases on the docket, and facilitating the swift resolution of service-related disputes.


The composition of the tribunals and benches is outlined in Section 4 of the Administrative Tribunals Act 1985. Each tribunal must have a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Judicial members, and Administrative members. Each bench must include one judge and one administrative member. In terms of Section 4(2) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 the Central Government may establish an administrative tribunal for a particular State, upon receiving a request in this regard from the concerned State Government. Once created, the State Administrative Tribunal is charged with exercising exclusive jurisdiction over disputes concerning the recruitment and conditions of service of persons in connection with posts under the concerned state or any civil service of that state.

Qualification of Members:

Section 6 of the Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 specifies the qualifications and appointment of tribunal members. The Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Judicial Member, and Administrative Member have distinct eligibility criteria based on their prior experience and service.


The Chairman, Vice President, and members are appointed by the President after consultation with the Governor of the concerned State.

Term of Office:

As per Section 8 of the Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985, the term of office for the Chairman, Vice President, and other members is five years or until they attain the age of 65 years for the Chairman and Vice-Chairman and 62 years for other members.

Resignation or Removal:

Section 9 of the Act outlines the procedure for resigning and being removed as a member. Members may resign by writing to the President, and removal can only occur based on proven misbehavior or incapacity following an investigation conducted by a Supreme Court judge.

Procedure and Powers:

Section 22 of the Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 establishes the authority and procedures of the tribunals. Tribunals have the power to govern their procedure, adhere to the idea of natural justice, and rule on applications and cases promptly. During the trial of a claim, tribunals possess powers similar to civil courts under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. This includes summoning and enforcing the attendance of individuals, examining them on oath, producing documents, and receiving evidence on affidavits.

Amended Provisions:

Some important amendments have been brought to the Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985. The important features of the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Act, 2006 are as follows:

  • The post of Vice-chairman of the Administrative Tribunal has been abolished by the amendment.
  • Before the amendment the tenure of the service of a Chairman of a Tribunal was for a term of 5 (five) consecutive years from his date of appointment or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier, but according to the amended provision, the tenure of service of a Chairman is for a term of 5 consecutive years from the date of his appointment or 68 years of age whichever is earlier.
  • Similarly, the tenure of service of a Member of the Administrative Tribunal was for a term of 5 years from his date of appointment or 62 years of age whichever was earlier. But consequent upon the present amendment, the tenure of service of a member of the Administrative Tribunal is for a term of 5 years from his date of appointment or 65 years of age whichever is earlier.
  • According to the latest amendment, the condition of service of the Chairman and Members of Administrative Tribunals have been made at par with a Judge of a High Court.

Status of Digitisation

The various State Administrative Tribunals have different levels of digitisation. While some tribunals such as the Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal and Kerala State Administrative Tribunal have their own websites, some tribunals such as Goa Administrative Tribunal do not even have their own separate websites. Kerala State Administrative Tribunal even has the facility of e-filing. However, there is significant scope for improving the status of digitisation in all the tribunals, by making the interface more user friendly and updating data such as case disposal reports periodically.

Issues and Challenges

Less SATs:

There are only 5 states that have State Administrative Tribunal (SATs) which are Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, and West Bengal.  Earlier there were 9 but Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal was abolished in 2020, Himachal Pradesh Administrative Tribunal was abolished in 2019,[1] Odisha State Administrative Tribunal was abolished in 2019 and upheld in the case of Orissa Administrative Tribunal Bar Association v. UoI And Ors,[2] Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal was abolished in 2004 (M.P. High Court Bar Assn. v. Union of India (2004)[3]), and Tamil Nadu Administrative Tribunal was also abolished (Tamil Nadu Government All Department Watchman and Basic Servants Association v. Union of India[4]) . This is a very sad state of affairs. More SATs need to be established to reduce the burden on Courts. Also, the digitization of the website of current SATs is not up to mark and needs to be updated accordingly.

Why SATs are being abolished:

The State Administrative Tribunal was operational in Odisha since July 14, 1986. The Odisha government believed that the Tribunal was not effectively fulfilling its original objectives, especially following the 1997 judgment in the L. Chandra Kumar case by the Hon'ble Apex Court. This ruling rendered the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) ineffective in providing swift resolution to grievances of State Government employees, as aggrieved parties were required to approach the Hon'ble High Court before seeking a final verdict from the Apex Court.

Considering these factors, the Odisha government decided to recommend to the Government of India the abolition of the Odisha Administrative Tribunal. The State Government initially urged the Union Government to establish the Odisha Administrative Tribunal as an alternative forum to the Orissa High Court, with appeals directly reaching the Supreme Court. The envisioned two-tier litigation structure was disrupted by the L. Chandra Kumar case, resulting in a three-tier system: first at the OAT, then the High Court, and finally, the Supreme Court. The State Government believed that the intended 'speedy redressal of grievances' was no longer achievable due to this additional layer of litigation. Consequently, the original purpose for establishing the Odisha Administrative Tribunal was considered obsolete by the State Government. Similar reasons were also provided in the abolition of the Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal and Tamil Nadu Administrative Tribunal.

Need for a nodal agency:

There has been a growing demand for the establishment of a central agency to oversee the functioning of tribunals. Various tribunals, whether dealing with service matters or other issues, may offer different interpretations of questions of law and jurisdiction. Even service tribunals focused on Central Government personnel and those addressing State services may have contrasting perspectives on identical issues. On multiple occasions, the apex court has emphasized the need to bring all tribunals under a single monitoring agency. In the case of L. Chandra Kumar, the Supreme Court directed the Union of India to take action, consult relevant stakeholders, and place all tribunals under a single nodal department, preferably the legal department. Subsequently, the Court closely monitored the steps taken by the Central Government in this direction. The implementation of a nodal agency carries multiple advantages. It helps create a conducive atmosphere for adjudicatory tribunals by ensuring uniformity in their constitution, structure, and procedures, not only for tribunals established by Central legislation but also those set up by State legislation. Members of administrative tribunals must remain free from undue influence. An overarching quasi-legislative monitoring agency can formulate procedures for the selection of members, case disposal, fund allocation, and other consequential matters. Such an agency would promote fairness, accessibility, efficiency, uniformity, and homogeneity, similar to the system in the United Kingdom. Drawing inspiration from the UK model, the functions of the UK Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council include keeping the administrative justice system under review, considering ways to make the system accessible, fair, and efficient, advising relevant authorities on system development, referring proposals for changes to them, making suggestions for research into the system, and overseeing tribunals by reporting on their constitution and functioning, considering referred matters, and scrutinizing legislation related to tribunals.[5]

Need to accept recommendation:

The situation is critical as it poses a threat to the primary purpose of administrative tribunals, which is to alleviate the workload of High Courts and offer swift remedies for civil service disputes. Despite the current portrayal of administrative tribunals as a viable alternative to high courts, the confusion stemming from the Chandra Kumar case continues to impact not only tribunals under the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 but also various other tribunal types. To address the adverse effects, several proposals have been put forth:

1. Establishment of permanent service benches within High Courts.

2. Creation of a National Appellate Administrative Tribunal with branches across the country, empowered to hear appeals on substantial questions of law.

3. Formation of zonal benches comprising three or more members to adjudicate intra-tribunal appeals from different state benches, with the option for a special leave appeal to the Supreme Court thereafter.

4. Reevaluation of the judgment in L Chandra Kumar by a larger bench of the Supreme Court.[5]

Way Forward

The establishment of an effective mechanism for resolving service disputes is vital for maintaining a well-organized and efficient bureaucracy, which, in turn, serves as the foundation for good governance. Nevertheless, one must not overlook certain traditional constraints that have been introduced or retained to limit its scope.

In the context of an administrative tribunal, possessing judicial expertise and knowledge becomes crucial for interpreting laws and the Constitution. Therefore, it is essential for the bench, on such occasions, to predominantly consist of a judicial member. However, there may be instances where one may not object to deviating from this rule, especially when a non-judicial administrative member makes a fair and unbiased decision on matters such as seniority and disciplinary action. While a judicial mind is undoubtedly a product of the judiciary, it is not an exclusive faculty. Endowed with the responsibility of making independent decisions and safeguarded by guarantees of functional and institutional freedom, an experienced administrator can be impartial and free from bias when undertaking the decision-making process.

The suggestion for an administrative bench within High Courts has been historically rejected, and there are concerns that such a bench might increase rather than decrease the High Court caseload. On the other hand, the proposals for a separate appeal or intra-tribunal appeal, while similar, are crucial as they provide viable alternative avenues for appeal, preventing aggrieved parties from resorting to the writ jurisdiction of high courts against tribunal decisions. It is imperative for the Government of India to carefully consider and deliberate upon which proposals can be adopted and effectively implemented.


  1. Centre issues notification to abolish Himachal Pradesh administration tribunal | Shimla News - Times of India (
  2. Orissa Administrative Tribunal Bar Association v. UoI And Ors. SLP(C) No. 10985/2021
  3. M.P. High Court Bar Assn. v. Union of India (2004) 11 SCC 766.
  4. Tamil Nadu Government All Department Watchman and Basic Servants Association v. Union of India  2005 SCC OnLine Mad 333.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Journal of the Indian Law Institute, JANUARY-MARCH 2012, Vol. 54, No. 1 (JANUARY-MARCH 2012), pp. 1-26
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