All over the world the tribunals are functioning beside the ordinary Courts of law because of some advantages it provide to justice seekers and administrators of justice. The social legislation of the twentieth century demanded tribunals for purely administrative reasons: they could offer speedier, cheaper and more accessible justice, essential for the administration of welfare schemes involving large number of small claims, whereas the process of the courts of law is elaborate, slow and costly. Tribunals have certain characteristics which often give them advantages over the courts. These are cheapness, accessibility, freedom from technicality, expedition and expert knowledge of their particular subject. Some of the advantages of the tribunals over the Courts are discussed below:
The tribunals are much quicker than that of the Courts in hearing and deciding the cases. A related advantage of the tribunal system is the certainty that it will be heard on a specified date and it will decide a case within a specific period of time. In most of the cases, the provisions of law by which the tribunal is set up provide that the dispute or case must be settled within a specified time. For example, the Labour Appellate Tribunal formed under section 38 of the Industrial Relations Ordinance, 1969 provides in sub-section (3) that the decisions of the tribunal shall be delivered within sixty days. The Speedy Trial Tribunal disposed of a total of 709 cases between 24h October, 2002 to 19th September, 2005, which is a huge success of tribunal.
To make a tribunal functional the expenditure incurred by the Government is comparatively less and parties too, have to bear the minimum of expenditure. Thus, tribunals are much cheaper way of deciding cases than taking recourse to the regular procedure of the court. One factor that leads to a reduction in cost is the fact that no specialized Court building is required for the hearing of the cases. No Court fee or lawyer fee are to be given in the proceedings.
Tribunals conform to an informal procedure. The strict rules relating to the evidence, pleading and procedure, which apply in the Courts, are not binding in the tribunal’s proceedings. They observe principles of natural justice and fair play. They can rely on hearsay evidence or decide the questions of onus of proof or admissibility of documents, etc. by exercising discretionary powers. The provisions of this informal situation suggest that the complaints do not need to be represented by lawyers, they may represent them or the representative of the trade union may represent them. But the Frank Committee Report, 1957 of UK emphasized on the need for clear rules for procedure. Now, many tribunals follow specific rules of procedure. For example, the Industrial Relations Rules, 1977 provides for the rules of procedure to be followed by the Labour Appellate Tribunal. The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal Rule, 1985 provides for the rules that the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal shall follow in discharging cases.
The tribunals are not bound to follow the strict rules of precedent. So, in every case a Tribunal has the chance to correct its previous decision or if the previous decision was correct the tribunal can take the view. But it is customary practice that as the tribunals are inferior to the Courts they follow the precedent of the Courts.
In the ordinary Court, the judges may not be well acquainted with the cases or it may happen that a judge may not feel comfortable to hear particular categories of cases because he does not have sufficient knowledge on that issue. Tribunals are free from such problem. In most of the cases persons who are expert on the tribunal issues constitute the tribunals. The judges of the tribunals are well versed with the issue for which the tribunals were set up. For example, section 11(3) of the Income Tax Ordinance, 1984 provides that-
A person shall not be appointed as a member of the Taxes Appellate Tribunal unless¬
(i) he was a member of the National Board of Revenue; or
(ii) he was a Commissioner of Taxes; or
(iii) he is a Commissioner of Taxes; or
(vi) he is an income tax practitioner and practiced professionally for not less than twenty years; or
(vii) he is a professional legislative expert having not less than eight years experience in the process of drafting and making financial and tax laws; or
(viii) he is an advocate and practiced professionally for not less than ten years in any income tax office.
Thus it can easily be inferred that a person not acquainted with tax matters cannot sit on such tribunals.
The aim of the tribunals is to provide individuals with a readily accessible forum in which they can refer their grievances, and getting cases admitted into tribunals is certainly not as difficult as getting a case into the ordinary Courts. In ordinary courts of law, the general practice is that, if any person wants to institute a suit, he has to go to a lawyer, the lawyer after considering everything finds out the right forum. In tribunal system, all persons concerned know the forum and thus the tribunals are easily accessible.
People of our society, by and large, do not want to share their private issues relating to Court matter. Most of the instances, the proceedings of the Court are held in open Court. In a tribunal, the proceedings can be taken without triggering the publicity. For example, section 63 of the EPZ Sramik Shongha abong Shilpa Shamparka Ain, 2004 says that if any information is obtained from any association or person, unit or company or employer during taking evidence by the executive chairman, conciliator, tribunal, arbitrator or appellate tribunal, and if that any association or person, unit or company or employer requests to keep such information secret, it cannot be published without the written consent of that association or person, unit or company or employer.