• Legis Scriptor

L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India.

Authored By- Shaik Lalbee

Keywords- Constitutionality,jurisdiction,fundamental,feature,constitutional,validity,alternative mechanism, legitimacy,lawsuits,framework,ordinary legislation,tribunals.

Case name: L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India.

In Supreme Court of India Civil Appeal No. 481 of 1989

Equivalent Citation: AIR 1997 SC 1125,(1997) 3 SCC 261.

Petitioner: L. Chandra Kumar

Respondent: Union of India

Date of Judgement: 18-03-1997

Bench: A.M. Ahmadi CJI, M.M. Punchhi, K. Ramaswamy, S.P. Bharucha, S. Saghir.


There have been major debates over the constitutionality of Articles 323A and 323B, as it has been thought that the absence of the High Court's authority to service matters is counter to the spirit of the Constitution. In various cases ranging from the case of Keshavnanda Bharati (Keshavanand Bharti v. the State of Kerala) to the case of Sampat Kumar and beyond the courts, they have sought to bring this dispute to rest but continue to generate further dispute in the meantime. However, in L Chandra Kumar's case seminal decision the matter ultimately settled.

Facts of the case

Special leave applications, civil appeals, and written applications were filed concerning the constitutional validity of Article 323A(2)(d) and Article 323B(3)(d) and also concerning the constitutional validity of the Act on Administrative Tribunals, 1985; moreover, the question was also whether the Tribunals constituted under Section XIV A of the Constitution of India could be effectively questioned.

Background of the case

To minimize the burden of service lawsuits from the High Courts, and thus the Supreme Court, which constituted a large portion of the pending litigation, the Law Commission in 1975, the Administrative Reform Commission in 1969, the Swaran Singh Committee in 1975, and the Supreme Court in K.K. Dutta v. Union of India[1], recommended the setting up of tribunals comprised of judicial and administrative representatives to determine matters of service. It was to this scene that Parliament passed the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution incorporating Section XIV-A containing Sections 323A and 323B calling for the setting up of tribunals to deal with administrative matters and other issues.

Issues raised

  • If the power bestowed by Article 323-A(2)(d) on Parliament or by Article 323-B(3)(d) of the Constitution of India on State Legislature to absolutely exempt the jurisdiction of 'all courts,' excluding that of the Supreme Court under Article 136?

  • If the tribunals established pursuant either to Article 323A or Article 323B of the Constitution have the authority to test the substantive legitimacy of a legislative clause or rule?

  • Is it safe to conclude that the tribunals, as they operate, are the appropriate replacements for the High Court in discharging the right of judicial review? If not, what adjustments are needed to make them comply with their founding objectives?


To allow them to determine their particular facts in the light of the findings found in the judgment, all the matters are to be mentioned before a Division Bench.


  • The Court held that, to the degree that they exempt the authority of the High Courts (under Sections 226 and 227) and of the Supreme Court (under Article 32), Section 28 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 and the "exclusion of authority" provisions of all other statutory acts implemented under the aegis of Sections 323A and 323B would be ultra-bordered by the Constitution.

  • The Court held that there was no statutory ban against administrative tribunals in performing a supplementary function as opposed to a substitution function; that is, in exercising their powers, those tribunals cannot serve as replacements for High Courts and the Supreme Court. Their judgment will be subject to review by a Division Bench of the High Courts specified, that is all decisions of these Tribunals (Tribunals constituted under Articles 323A and 323B of the Constitution of India) will be subject to scrutiny before a Division Bench of the High Court under whose jurisdiction the tribunal involved falls.

  • Finally, the court upheld Section 5(6) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 as legitimate and constitutional and held that Sections 5(2) and 5(6) of the Act shall operate alongside and be interpreted in a harmonious manner, where a matter relating to the interpretation of a legislative provision or law relating to the Constitution occurs for consideration by the Administrative tribunal of a Single membered bench and the provisions of Section 5(6) which extend functionally and the Chairperson or Member concerned shall refer the matter to a Bench composed of at least two judges, one of whom shall be a member of the judiciary.

Ratio decidendi

  • The fundamental framework of the Constitution is the right of judicial review of legislative activity under Sections 226 and 32 in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, respectively.

  • The fundamental concept of the Constitution is the authority of judicial superintendence over decisions of all courts and tribunals under its jurisdiction.

  • It is not practicable to preclude the High Courts and the Supreme Court from judicial scrutiny of legislative activity in the exercise of authority by the inferior judiciary or tribunals constituted under ordinary legislation. In this respect, however, they may play additional – as opposed to substitution – function.

  • Tribunals established under Articles 323A and 323B have the authority to test vires of subordinate laws, except for vires of parent statutes. Both the judgments under Articles 226/227 will be subject to review by Division Bench of their respective High Courts. Under Article 136, no challenge will lay immediately before the Supreme Court. The said path may prospectively be operational.

  • It is not appropriate to avoid nominating administrative staff.

  • Before the creation of a fully autonomous entity to monitor the operation of the Tribunals, all such Tribunals shall be subjected to a single nodal ministry of which the Ministry of Law is officially a part.

Critical analysis

Parliament enacted the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, in pursuance of the authority bestowed on it by Article 323A(1) of the Constitution. The Central Administrative Tribunal of five Benches was created on 1 November 1985 according to the provisions of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985. Even before the creation of the Central Administrative Tribunal, however, a variety of written petitions were filed in various High Courts and the Supreme Court challenging the statutory validity of Article 323A and the terms of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.

The prohibition of judicial appeal under Articles 226, 227, and 32 have been criticized as infringing the constitution's constitutional framework in S.P. Sampath Kumar v. union of India. In S.P. Sampath Kumar vs. UOI, the Court ruled in the judgment that Section 28 except High Court jurisdiction under Articles 226/227 was not unconstitutional. The Court has held that this provision is not completely barring judicial scrutiny. It also said that Administrative Tribunals are replacements for High Courts under the 1985 Act and can handle all matters relating to services, also with Articles 14, 15, and 16. It also proposed changing the credentials of the tribunal’s chairman. A divisional bench of the Supreme Court expressed the view in L. Chandra Kumar vs. UOI that the decision of the Constitutional Bench of five Judges in the Sampath Kumar case had to be "comprehensively reconsidered" and that a "fresh look by a larger bench on all the issues arising in the Sampath Kumar case was necessary." Considering the Division Bench's view, the case was put before a wider seven-judge Court.


In the present case, the Supreme Court reversed its previous stance on the tribunals and held that, since the judicial review is an important, integral, and fundamental function of the Constitution, the authority imposed on the High Courts under Article 226/227 and the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution cannot be removed by a constitutional clause. Having regard to this, the courts and tribunals which play a supplementary role in exercising the powers granted by Articles 226/227 and 32 of the Constitution.

[1] AIR 1980 SC 2056