The Tribunals Reforms (Rationalisation And Conditions Of Service) Ordinance, 2021

By Aman|Updated : April 7th, 2021

Recently the government abolished appellate authorities under 9 statutes and transferred their functions (such as adjudication of appeals) to other existing judicial bodies (mainly the High Courts) by an ordinance. A Bill with similar provisions was introduced in Lok Sabha in February 2021 and is currently pending.

This article covers everything you need to know about the ordinance, various tribunals as well as pros and cons of the move.

Table of Content

The Tribunals Reforms(Rationalisation And Conditions Of Service) Ordinance,2021


  • Recently the government abolished appellate authorities under 9 statutes and transferred their functions (such as adjudication of appeals) to other existing judicial bodies (mainly the High Courts) by an ordinance.
  • A bill with similar provisions was introduced in the lower house of the parliament in February 2021 and is currently pending. 


  • Abolition of Appellate tribunals:
    • The Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) stands dissolved.
    • The Ordinance amends the Cinematograph Act, 1952 by replacing the word “Tribunal” with “High Court”.
  • Other Acts amended by this Ordinance (that affects the transfer of the appellate functions to Courts) include:
      • The Trade Marks Act, 1999, The Copyright Act, 1957, The Patents Act, 1970, the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.
      • The Customs Act, 1962,
      • The Airports Authority of India Act, 1994,
    • The Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002.
  • Finance Act 2017 empowered the Centre to notify rules with respect to:
    •  the qualifications of members of tribunals,
    •  the terms and conditions of their service, and
    • composition of search-cum-selection committees for 19 tribunals (e.g., the Customs, Excise, and Service Tax Appellate Tribunals). 

The Ordinance amends the 2017 Act to incorporate provisions related to the composition of search-cum-selection committees and the term of office of tribunal members in the Act itself.

  • Search-cum-selection committees: The Ordinance mentions that these Committees will consist of:

            a) Chief Justice of India, or a Supreme Court Judge nominated by him, as the Chairperson with casting vote,

           b) two Secretaries nominated by the central government,

           c)the sitting or outgoing Chairperson, or a retired Supreme Court Judge, or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court, and

           d) the Secretary of the Ministry under which the Tribunal is constituted with no voting right.


  • Term of office: The Ordinance mentions that the term of office for the Chairperson of the tribunals will be of 4 years or till the attainment of the age of 74, whichever is earlier. For all other members of the tribunals, the term will be of 4 years or till the age of 67, whichever is earlier.
  • Further, the Ordinance includes the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission established under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019, within the purview of the Finance Act, 2017.
  • It removes the following bodies from the purview of the Finance Act, 2017:
    • (i) the Airport Appellate Tribunal established by Airports Authority of India Act, 1994,
    • (ii) the Appellate Board established by the Trade Marks Act, 1999,
    • (iii) the Authority of Advance Ruling established by the Income Tax Act, 1961, and
    • (iv) the Film Certification Appellate Authority established by the Cinematograph Act, 1952. 

Detailed Analysis

The Film Certificate Appellate Tribunal - FCAT

  • It was a statutory body set up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in 1983, under Section 5D of the Cinematograph Act, 1952.
  • Its main function was to hear appeals filed under Section 5C of the Cinematograph Act by those aggrieved by the decision of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
  • It was headed by a chairperson and had four other members, including a Secretary appointed by the Government of India.
  • It was headquartered in New Delhi.

Film Certification process in India

  • All films in India must have a Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certificate if they are to be released in theatre, telecast on TV, or displayed publicly in any manner.
  • The CBFC consists of Chairperson and 23 members. All of whom are appointed by the Government of India.
  • The CBFC can also deny certification to a film, and when a filmmaker or producer has not been satisfied with the CBFC’s certification or with a denial, they can appeal to the FCAT.


  • Filmmakers will now have to approach the High Court with appeals every time CBFC denies or gives an unsatisfactory certificate.
  • Not many film producers will have the means to approach the courts.

The Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB)

  • On account of the Ordinance, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board has been dissolved that heard appeals relating to patents, trademarks, copyrights, geographical indications, plant varieties.
  • Thus, the appeals from the decisions of the relevant Registry will now be heard by the High Court.
  • Appeals for industrial designs continue to remain before the relevant High Court.


  • The IPAB was meant to consist of subject experts and judicial members for the efficient and time-bound resolution of IP matters. However, it performed poorly due to inadequate funding and inefficiencies in appointments.

 Advantages of the move

  • The main advantage of appeals before the relevant High Court is improved accessibility for the litigants.
    • Most of the hearings at the IPAB were held in Chennai or Delhi due to limited funding. Thus, litigants from outside these cities had to bear additional expenses.


  • High pendency and delays: One of the reasons for the establishment of the IPAB was delays due to the pendency of proceedings before the Courts. Hence, shifting jurisdiction from the IPAB to the High Courts may not lead to the more efficient disposal of IP-related suits.
  • Need for Lawyers: Proceedings before the IPAB were administrative in nature and required only the submission of the relevant form for routine filings. Parties did not require lawyers. Proceedings before the High Courts will necessitate the appointment of lawyers.
  • Technical experts: A domain expert would hasten the adjudication process and add significant value to IP jurisprudence. But this move removes the involvement of domain experts


  • The IPAB was very clearly in need of urgent reform. However, this move is unlikely to resolve the delays faced by litigants before the IPAB, given the backlog in the High Courts.
  • The most significant issues with the IPAB were the delay in appointments and lack of infrastructure, which could have been addressed by the government within the existing framework itself, which it has not chosen to.



write a comment

Featured Articles

Follow us for latest updates