Advantages & Disadvantages of Tribunal over Court system: If you conduct a fast search on how widely the tribunal system has been accepted throughout the world, you will discover that the majority of civilized countries rely on this method of resolving disputes more frequently. Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, and even India occasionally adopt this method.
To my mind, the tribunal system may eventually supplant the traditional court system due to its various advantages. That is not to say, however, that it is without drawbacks. That is, there are also reasons why an individual may choose the traditional court process over a tribunal.
In today’s post, I’ll explore the Tribunal System’s Advantages and Disadvantages over the court system. The purpose of this article is to educate and inform lawyers and law students on the advantages and disadvantages of a tribunal, or what is sometimes referred to as Administrative Adjudication.
Before we get into the meat of this topic, I’d like to clarify what a tribunal is. Believe me; this will go a long way toward assisting you in comprehending what I will discuss here. We’re about to begin!
What is the purpose of a tribunal?
A tribunal is a special court, usually constituted by the government, that sits outside the hierarchy of the regular court system and is charged with hearing and deciding specific types of cases.
A tribunal can also be defined as a person or an organization that performs judicial or quasi-judicial activities outside of the traditional court system.
It is a special court composed of a single person or a panel of individuals appointed by the government to investigate a particular type of problem or to perform such judicial or quasi-judicial functions as are typically established by statute and exist outside the hierarchy of the regular court system to;
- Conduct investigations into problems of public concern
- To hear and decide specific cases, matters, or claims between parties, whether they are individuals, corporations, or governments.
It is also worth noting that in Nigeria, tribunals are often appointed by the government in accordance with the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, or its state-level counterpart, or under another special statute passed for that purpose.
Expertise: A significant advantage of tribunals over traditional courts is that the individuals in charge of the system are typically specialists. Tribunals are specialized courts composed of professionals from many fields of endeavor. This empowers it to adjudicate on any topic brought before it, whether medical, legal, or engineering.
To illustrate, a court may hear a case that is technical and scientific in character. This complicates the judge’s role in such cases, as he is informed about law, not science.
Thus, rather than asking for judges to specialize in certain areas, efforts are being made to establish tribunals to handle such specialized issues. This is frequently the reason for the establishment of a tribunal in a case.
Cost effectiveness/affordability: Another significant advantage that tribunals have over traditional courts is their lower cost or accessibility. Nobody wants to spend a fortune filing cases in court; instead, they prefer to use a tribunal.
In comparison to ordinary courts, administrative tribunal proceedings are frequently relatively inexpensive. This is viewed both from the litigant’s and the administrative authority’s vantage points.
In Nigeria, it might take up to five years for a case to be resolved and released from a normal court. Without a doubt, the judicial system has long been marked by unwarranted delays and bottlenecks caused by rigid adherence to evidence and procedural rules. To substantiate this, see Mojekwu v Mojekwu or Mojekwu v Iwuchukwu.
Nonetheless, tribunal hearings are typically expedited and devoid of pointless adjournments and interlocutory appeals. Cases are resolved promptly and quickly. This is a significant advantage of the Tribunal system of justice.
Numerous legal authors and scholars have confirmed that whereas a regular court is bound by certain rules (i.e. rules of evidence and process), tribunals are not bound by any law. This is one of its advantages over the judicial system.
Tribunal are not bound by evidence or procedural norms, nor are they constrained by the principle of stare decisis. This contributes to the system’s versatility. In ordinary courts, the reverse is always true.
The procedures of a Tribunal are typically informal, without the trappings of ordinary court proceedings, such as lawyers dressed professionally, wigs and gowns, and formalities in pleadings. This facilitates fact-finding and the administration of justice.
It is intended to acclimate the common man and enable him to properly perform his assigned function as the justice of the particular case requires. Indeed, there is another benefit that tribunals have over courts.
After discussing the advantages of a tribunal over the traditional court system, I will discuss the shortcomings of the tribunal system and why the traditional court system may still be preferable.
Inadequate legal understanding: Members of tribunals frequently lack the necessary legal knowledge and fact-finding abilities due to a lack of training in that sector. As a result, they employ assessors, which can result in injustice. The situation is different in a court system with years of training for judges.
This appears to be a compelling reason why the Tribunal System should not be used in every legal proceeding. It is one of the administrative tribunal’s primary shortcomings.
Loyalty to the current government: Members of a tribunal are frequently appointed by a particular government administration, and as such, they are more or less loyal to the administration or government that established it.
This demonstrates their lack of independence, impartiality, and due process in reaching their decisions, particularly when those decisions involve the government that formed them.
In other words, their rulings virtually always benefit the current government. This is why many authors continue to be critical of the usage of tribunals in place of ordinary courts. This is without a doubt one of the disadvantages of the tribunal system over the court system.
Inadequate adherence to legal procedure: One of the court system’s most distinguishing features is judicial precedent, which ensures legal consistency. Tribunals, on the other hand, are not constrained by evidence and procedure standards or judicial precedent.
As a result, they frequently reach their conclusions without sufficient evidence for each. As a result, some authors believe that the tribunal system should be abolished. Clearly, this is also one of the downsides of tribunals in comparison to the traditional court system.
Tribunals frequently convene in camera, without allowing journalists or the general public to observe their proceedings. This secrecy of the processes may result in unfairness in some instances, and as a result, members of the public view the judgments rendered by these courts with suspicion.
This is not the case in a judicial system. The court’s proceedings are typically open to the public and are occasionally published for everyone to read. This, it appears, is why many people believe in the court system rather than the tribunal system.
Inadequate justification for the decision:
There is a widespread adage that “justice must be done in every case; it must also be shown to have been done.” This means that prior to making any judgment on any subject, it must be self-evident that the decision is correct.
This appears to be why judges always provide reasons for their decisions in all legal proceedings. A judge’s rationale is referred to as his Ratio(s) decidendi.
In the conventional sense, it refers to the reason(s) for the decision. Tribunals, on the other hand, are not always inclined to articulate the rationale for their decisions.
In contrast to the circular court system, where a case’s legal report is easily accessible, tribunals do not report or publish cases. This is also one of the significant disadvantages of a tribunal-based system over a court-based system.
Absence of a fair hearing and violation of the rule of natural justice: Frequently, parties in the tribunal system are denied a fair hearing. This clearly contradicts the law of natural justice, one of the most fundamental human rights guaranteed to citizens. In Nigeria, for example, Section 36(1) of the constitution states as follows:
“A person is entitled to a fair hearing within a reasonable time when determining his civil rights and obligations, and the court or tribunal should be structured in such a way that its independence and impartiality are guaranteed.”
As a result of the foregoing, there are sacred components of due process, impartiality, and independence to which the tribunal is supposed to adhere. The rule of natural justice encapsulates two principles: meme judex in causa sua, which says that one should not be a judge in one’s own case.
Tribunals frequently disregard this premise. This is demonstrated by the well-known Nigerian case Alakija v Medical Disciplinary Committee.
On the other hand, the tribunal system violates the second limb of the pillars of natural justice, which is that both sides should be heard in every case to ensure that conviction or a finding of guilt cannot be gained on the basis of one-sided evidence or testimony.
Okay! This concludes my discussion of the pros and cons of the tribunal system vs the court system. Considering the pros and cons discussed previously, I believe the Tribunal system should be employed only when it is necessary.
When it is clear that the tribunal system will result in injustice, the court system should be used.
I hope this essay was beneficial to you. To conclude, if you have any questions for me on this subject, please do not hesitate to leave them in the comment box.