Difference Between Court And Tribunal


A court means an institution which has the authority to settle legal disputes between the parties. In accordance with the rule of law, administration of justice is carried out in matters relating to civil, criminal or administrative. There are trial courts and appellate courts. The trials are held by the trial courts. They are also known as fact finding courts. The appellate courts are there to hear appeals from the decision of trial courts. In England and Wales, there is a special type of court known as crown courts which have both trial and appellate jurisdictions. Supreme court is the highest court in our country and is the guardian of the constitution.

Tribunals are quasi-judicial in nature. The word ‘tribunal’ has been derived from the word ‘tribune’. The idea behind setting up of tribunals is to lessen the burden on the courts and dispose of the cases expeditiously outside the courts. In the original draft of the constitution the concept of ‘tribunals’ was not there. But the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 was added to the Indian constitution. Articles 323A and 323B provide for the establishment of various tribunals. Examples of different types of tribunals are competition appellate tribunals, debts recovery tribunals, labor tribunals, national green tribunal, administrative tribunals etc. Supreme court has held that tribunals being quasi-judicial in nature exercise the same degree of independence from the executive as is exercised by the judicial courts. Under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 armed forces tribunal was established which is a military tribunal.

Here in this article, we will point out the various differences between court and tribunal.

What is Court?

Courts belong to the third pillar of Indian democracy which is judiciary. Judiciary is a body which is independent from the legislature and executive. Court is the institution people look forward to when a legal dispute arises. The hierarchy of courts in India is divided into a three-tier system, the highest court of the country is the Supreme Court of India under which lies the high courts at the state level. Then, at the district level, there are district courts which are also called the lower courts. These courts are presided over by judges who settle the disputes between the parties. All these courts are vested with certain jurisdictions and powers. The supreme court has power all over the country and the decision of the supreme court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India according to Article 141 of the constitution of India. The supreme court has writ jurisdiction under Article 32 of the constitution and original jurisdiction under Article 131 of the constitution. The supreme court exercises appellate jurisdiction under Articles 132, 133 and 134 of the Constitution.

The decision of the supreme court is binding on all courts in the Indian territory. High court exercises jurisdiction over the state where it is established. The decision of one high court is not binding on other high courts. High court exercises writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the constitution. According to Article 231 of the constitution, parliament may by law establish a common high court for two or more states or two or more states and a union territory.

The district courts are also known as the trial courts. The district courts are under the supreme court and high court in the three-tier hierarchy. The decision of the supreme court and high court are binding on the district courts.

Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 are the procedural laws which are to be followed by the courts to adjudicate upon the cases.

What is Tribunal?

Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body. They are neither completely judicial bodies nor executive bodies. Under part XIV-A of the constitution, Articles 323A and 323B deal with tribunals. Tribunals are set up by special legislations as well. Article 323A says about administrative tribunals and Article 323B deal with tribunals for other matters. Tribunals were first introduced into the constitution by way of 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. But the first tribunal that was established in India was the income tax appellate tribunal in the year 1941.

Generally, the tribunals have been established for expeditious disposal of cases and to lessen the burden on the courts. Tribunals help in fastening the justice delivery system. Tribunals basically provide awards to the affected parties. The decision of the tribunal is known as awards. Tribunals follow the principles of natural justice. Under Article 323A Parliament may by law provide to adjudicate and try by administrative tribunals of disputes and complaints in respect of recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to public services and posts in connection with affairs of union or of any state or of any local or other authority within the territory of India or under the control of government of India or any corporation owned or controlled by the government. Article 323B provides that the appropriate legislature may by law provide to adjudicate or try by tribunals of any disputes complaints or offences with respect to all or any of the matters specified in clause (2) of article 323B. Clause (2) has enumerated several matters to which clause (1) applies.

Various examples of tribunals are administrative tribunals, competition appellate tribunals, income tax tribunals, company law appellate tribunals, labor tribunals etc. all these tribunals are entrusted to deal with a particular type of cases. Like labor tribunals deal with labor disputes, competition appellate tribunal is there to check upon the anti-competitive practices and to promote healthy competition in the market.

Difference Between Court And Tribunal

The Difference between Court and Tribunal are discussed bellow:

1) Courts pass judgements, decrees and orders in cases of civil cases and judgement of acquittal or conviction in cases of criminal offenses. While tribunals are established to provide awards to the affected parties.

2) Courts deal with various types of cases like criminal, civil and constitutional. But tribunals deal with a specific type of cases.

3) Courts follow the rule of procedure as provided in the statute books like the Code of Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure Code and Law of Evidence. In case of tribunals, there is no strict procedural law to be followed for the adjudication of cases. The tribunals follow principles of natural justice to provide awards.

4) The court system is a three-tier system with the supreme court as the highest court of the land. The tribunals are subordinate to the courts, the appeals against the decision of tribunals lie to the high courts and supreme courts.

5) The presiding officer of a court is a judge who is a professional in the field of law. The presiding officer of a tribunal need not be a person who is professionally trained in the field of law. The presiding officer and members may be a person who is an expert in the field of administrative matters belonging to the executive in case of administrative tribunal etc.

6) Courts are purely constitutional bodies. Its creation and function are a part of the constitutional framework. Tribunals though are mentioned in the constitution under part XIV-A of the constitution but they are established by way of special legislation defining the powers, functions and composition of these tribunals. Tribunals come into existence by way of this special legislation.

7) The court has the power to decide regarding the constitutional validity or vires of a statute or law. The tribunals do not possess such power.

8) Courts are independent bodies over which neither legislature nor the executive have authority. Judges in courts are independent as well. They have their own protocols to follow. Executive exercises powers to some extent over the tribunals as they decide the tenure and other service-related matters of the members of the tribunals.

9) In courts, lawyers/ advocates have a major role to play to fight the case. The parties to the disputes do not get much chance to speak. Lawyers get to do maximum talking in the courts being acquainted with the procedure of laws. But in tribunals, the parties to the disputes directly get involved in the settlement of the dispute. Lawyers have very little to no role to play as there is no strict rule of law to be followed and any layman can fight his/her case easily in the tribunal.


Both court and tribunal play important roles in the justice delivery system of our country. The courts have set up various precedents over the years which has helped the Indian democracy to a large extent. The establishment of tribunals have made way for speedy and cheaper disposal of cases. Over the years, the burden on the courts has mounted because of the heavy pendency of cases on the judiciary. India’s population is very high and the number of judges in the system compared to the population is very less. So, the judges become over burdened with case load. The establishment of tribunals have surely lessened some burden from the shoulders of the judges. Both court and tribunal work independently of each other and have their respective duties to perform. Both court and tribunal have been entrusted with the duty to maintain law and order in the country and to uphold constitutional principles. There are many key differences between court and tribunal but they have similarities when it comes to justice delivery. In both the courts and tribunals, the parties get equal opportunities to present and fight their cases. The principle of audi alterem partem (no one should be condemned unheard) is followed by both courts and tribunals. To sum it up, both courts and tribunals work in tandem with other. They work towards upholding the principles of justice, equity and good conscience.

Swayam Raychoudhury