Difference Between Tribunals and Courts

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Difference Between Tribunals and Courts

Tribunals are often confused with courts. Tribunals are a part of the administrative system whereas courts in general are the creation of judiciary which is entirely a separate organ. Both the courts and tribunals operate independently of each other. Although their objectives are the same yet there are major differences that establish them as separate bodies.

The law involved

Tribunals are established under the administrative law, which is an offshoot of decentralization of government authorities. Decentralization has resulted in the increased number of departments that have maximized the responsibility of government. Hence, these departments are given the authority to look after their disputes independently without any interference of courts except when the decisions are challenged in their legality.

Tribunals Categorized

Every department has its own tribunal that deals with the specific matters related to it. For example, a custom tribunal deals with the matters related to customs duty and trade disputes. There are other tribunals like employment tribunal, lands tribunal, pensions appeal tribunal, immigration tribunal, civil aviation tribunal etc.

Difference in Establishment

Just like any court, a tribunal has a permanent establishment. There’s a bench of adjudicators who are responsible to pronounce a just and fair decision in favor of the aggrieved party. As compared to a court, the proceedings of a tribunal are less formal and speedy. The courts are expected to be rigid in their functions because they’re directed to do so as per the rules and code of conduct. Their performance is reported to the higher courts that initiate misconduct proceedings in absence of obedience to proper conduct. In tribunals, the adjudicators are selected from the organization or the department itself. The department makes its own sets of rules and they’re relatively flexible and informal.

Difference in Tribunal Fees

The court fees and expenses are as per the subject matter of the case. If the matter in dispute is worth a billion dollars then the court fee will be charged accordingly. This makes the courts way more expensive than tribunals. Tribunals render faster decisions at a much lesser cost and thus are more efficient.

Difference in Technicalities

Another reason for the efficacy of the tribunals is the expertise of the adjudicators in the relevant field. For example, a person sitting to adjudicate upon a matter in a custom tribunal will be a custom officer. So he will have the know-how related to his department more than a judge of any court. Hence he will decide the case more proficiently because of his additional technical knowledge as compared to a normal judge.

Binding nature of tribunal decisions

The tribunal decisions are binding upon the parties. However, they’re appealable or challengeable in the court, provided the law under which the tribunal is established provides for the opportunity of appeal to the higher courts.

The adjudicating bench

Besides, there’s a bench of adjudicators that sits to decide a matter in a tribunal but the courts normally have a single judge deciding upon a dispute.

Difference in Jurisdiction

The jurisdiction of a tribunal, however, is much narrower than that of a court. Since a tribunal is concerned with only the matters related to a specific department, it makes its jurisdiction limited. On the other hand, a court has matters coming from all the areas involving disputes related to civil, criminal, family, corporate and business matters.

Key Facts and Statistics:

  • As per Cable News Network (CNN), the US Supreme Court was established in accordance with Article III, section 1 of the Constitution of the United States and by the authority of the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789.
  • The first court assembled in New York City on 2nd of February, 1790.
  • The US Supreme Court comprises of eight associate justices and one chief justice.
  • Each justice supervises one or more of the twelve Federal Judicial Circuit Courts.
  • The tribunals which are established by the United States’ federal government are the federal tribunals in the United States.
  • "The use of the term "tribunal" in this context as a blanket term to encompass both courts and other adjudicative entities comes from section 8 of Article I of the Constitution, which expressly grants Congress the power to constitute tribunals inferior to the U.S. Supreme Court." - (WIKIPEDIA)
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