Decoding the Central Administrative Tribunal: Empowering Administrative Justice

Central Administrative Tribunal

  • The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) is an administrative tribunal in India.
  • The main function of Central Administrative Tribunal is to provide a specialized and independent forum for settlement of disputes between the Central Government and their employees.
  • Central Government servants are empowered to adjudicate matters relating to recruitment, promotion, transfer and disciplinary action.
  • The Tribunal also administers pension benefits, allowances and other service-related matters.

Origins and Establishment

  • The Central Administrative Tribunal of India was originated and established in 1976 by the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India.
  • The amendment introduced Articles 323A and 323B, which empowered Parliament to constitute administrative tribunals. Disputes and matters relating to recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to Government services and posts.
  • As stated to 42nd constitutional provisions, the Central Administrative Tribunal Act, 1985 was enacted by Parliament.

Importance and role of the Central Administrative Tribunal in the Indian Administrative system

Specialized Administrative Adjudication

  •  Central Administrative Tribunal provides a specialized forum for redressal of disputes and grievances relating to recruitment and conditions of service of Central Government servants.
  • It ensures that matters relating to administrative issues are handled by experts skilled in administrative law, thus ensuring a fair and knowledgeable adjudication process.

Speedy settlement of disputes

  •  One of the primary objectives of establishing Central Administrative Tribunal was speedy settlement of administrative disputes.
  • By providing a dedicated tribunal, the CAT aims to reduce the burden on regular courts and provide a faster and more effective mechanism for redressal of service grievances of Central Government servants.

Accessible and Cost-Effective

  • Central Administrative Tribunal operates through its various benches. The benches located in different cities of India.
  • This decentralized structure increases accessibility for litigants, allowing them to access tribunals without having to travel long distances.
  • Moreover, CAT offers a more cost-effective means of seeking redress than going to regular courts, as it saves time, effort and costs associated with traditional litigation.

Expertise in Administrative Matters

  •  CAT consists of judicial and administrative members with expertise in administrative law.
  • Their specialized knowledge and experience enable them to understand the nuances of service-related disputes and provide informed decisions.
  • This expertise ensures that tribunals can effectively interpret and apply administrative rules and regulations.

Reduced Litigation and Judicial Efficiency

  •  Central Administrative Tribunal providing an exclusive platform to resolve service-related issues, that helps reduce the burden on regular courts.
  • This allows the regular judiciary to focus on other important matters and administrative disputes are handled by a specialized agency, contributing to the overall efficiency of the judiciary.

Judicial review and precedent setting

  •  CAT decisions can be challenged in the High Court and subsequently in the Supreme Court of India.
  • The judgments of the CAT contribute to the development of administrative law and serve as precedents for future cases.
  • It helps establish legal principles and guidelines for administrative action and ensures uniformity and consistency in the interpretation and application of administrative rules.

Jurisdiction and Powers 

Recruitment and Appointment

  • Central Administrative Tribunal has jurisdiction over disputes arising out of recruitment and appointment of Central Government servants.
  • It can adjudicate matters related to alleged irregularities, discrimination, or violations of rules and procedures in the recruitment process.

Conditions of Service

  • The Central Administrative Tribunal has the power to hear and decide cases relating to the conditions of service of Central Government servants.
  • These include disputes relating to promotion, transfer, seniority, pay scales, allowances, leave, disciplinary action and other service-related matters.

Disciplinary Matters

  • CAT can hear appeals and complaints filed against disciplinary action taken against Central Government servants.
  • It may review the imposition of penalties, such as termination, suspension, demotion, or any other disciplinary action, and may provide appropriate relief if the action is found to be wrongful or in violation of the rules.

Pension and retirement benefits

  • Central Administrative Tribunal has jurisdiction over disputes relating to pension, retirement benefits and other post-retirement benefits of Central Government employees.
  • It can resolve grievances arising out of calculation of pension, commutation, gratuity and other retirement benefits.

Judicial Review

  • The CAT has the power of judicial review and can examine the validity, legality and propriety of administrative action taken by the Central Government.
  • It may review decisions, orders or regulations issued by the Government affecting the conditions of service of employees and determine whether they are in accordance with law.

Structure and Composition


  •  Central Administrative Tribunal is headed by a Chairman. Chairman is appointed by the President of India. The Chairman is usually a retired or serving judge of the Supreme Court of India.


  • The CAT consists of judicial and administrative members who assist the Chairman in the functioning of the Tribunal.
  • The number of members is determined by the Central Government based on the workload and requirements of the Tribunal.
  1.  Judicial Members: Judicial Members are generally retired High Court Judges or persons who have held judicial office for at least 10 years.
  2. Administrative Members: Administrative members are selected on their expertise and experience in administrative matters. They may have worked in senior positions in government or have extensive administrative knowledge.


  • CAT operates through multiple benches located in different cities across India and the number of benches and their locations are determined by the central government.
  • These benches provide accessibility to litigants, so that they can approach the CAT without traveling long distances.
  • Each bench is headed by a chairman or a vice chairman and has judicial and administrative members.


  • The Chairman and members of Central Administrative Tribunal are appointed by the President of India.
  • Appointments of Chairman and members are made in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and other relevant authorities.
  • The Chairman and members hold office for a fixed term fixed by the Central Government.


  • Central Administrative Tribunal seeks to be an independent and impartial tribunal.
  • The Chairman and members are expected to perform their duties without influence or bias, ensuring fair and impartial adjudication of disputes.

Significant Judgments delivered by the Central Administrative Tribunal

Sanjeev Chaturvedi vs. Union of India

  • In this case,  Central Administrative Tribunal said a whistleblower Indian Forest Service officer Sanjeev Chaturvedi was transferred from the post of Chief Vigilance Officer of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) to the Cabinet.
  • Health and family welfare were arbitrary and violative of principles of natural justice.
  • The CAT decision highlights the importance of protecting whistleblowers and upholding their rights.

UOI vs. R. Viswanathan

  • In this case, CAT says that the principle of “equal pay for equal work” must be applied to employees engaged on contractual or temporary basis.
  • The judgment emphasizes that workers performing the same duties and responsibilities will receive equal pay regardless of their employment status.

Keshav Lal Singh vs. Union of India

  • In this case, the CAT ruled that denying promotion to an employee because of a pending criminal case against him violated the principle of presumption of innocence.
  • CAT says that an employee cannot be denied promotion on the basis of a pending criminal case only, unless he is convicted.

R.K. Jain vs. Union of India

  • In this case, Central Administrative Tribunal held that an employee who is suspended pending a departmental inquiry is entitled to subsistence allowance during the period of suspension.
  • The judgment emphasized the importance of providing financial assistance to the dismissed employees till the completion of disciplinary proceedings.


Backlog of cases

  • Like many other judicial bodies, Central Administrative Tribunal faces a significant backlog of cases.
  • The growing number of disputes and limited resources can lead to delays in the disposal of cases, affecting timely delivery of justice to aggrieved parties.

Vacancies and Staffing

  • Central Administrative Tribunal often faces vacancies in the posts of Chairman, Judicial Members and Administrative Members.
  • Inadequate staffing can hamper the tribunal’s ability to efficiently manage its workload and cause further delays in the disposal of cases.

Lack of Infrastructure

  • Inadequate infrastructure, including physical facilities and technical resources, may pose challenges to the smooth functioning of Central Administrative Tribunal.
  • Inadequate courtrooms, administrative offices and technical equipment may hamper the tribunal’s ability to conduct cases effectively.

Limited Outreach and Awareness

  • Many central government employees may not be aware of the existence and functions of Central Administrative Tribunal.
  • Lack of awareness may result in underutilization of tribunals, with employees resorting to traditional litigation methods or not pursuing their grievances through appropriate channels.

Limited Jurisdiction

  • Central Administrative Tribunal has jurisdiction only over Central Government servants, while State Government servants are covered by State Administrative Tribunals (SATs).
  • This division of jurisdiction can sometimes lead to confusion and challenges in resolving disputes involving employees of both central and state governments.

Lengthy appellate process

  • Although Central Administrative Tribunal decisions can be appealed to the High Court and the Supreme Court, the long appellate process can cause delays and add to the overall time taken for dispute resolution.
  • This may affect the effectiveness of CAT in providing expeditious trial to litigants.


  • The Central Administrative Tribunal plays an important role in the Indian administrative system, acting as an independent and specialized adjudicating body.
  • Through its diligent work, CAT contributes to establishing a fair and just administrative framework for public servants.
  • By providing a forum for settlement and dispute resolution, tribunals strengthen administrative justice and uphold the principles of transparency, accountability and efficiency.


Q1: What is Central Administrative Tribunal for?
  • The Central Administrative Tribunal is a specialized tribunal in India that handles disputes and grievances related to the recruitment, service conditions, and employment matters of government employees. It provides an independent forum for resolving administrative disputes between government employees and their employers, such as the central government, public sector undertakings, and certain other organizations.
Q2: Who can be Chairman of Central Administrative Tribunal?
  • The Chairman of the Central Administrative Tribunal is usually a retired or serving Judge of the Supreme Court of India.
Q3: How do I file a case in Central Administrative Tribunal?
  • To file a case in the Central Administrative Tribunal , you need to prepare your case, draft an application stating the facts and relief sought, submit it to the relevant CAT bench, pay the required fee, and await acknowledgment.

Central Administrative Tribunal Website

Related Article

Article 352 of Indian Constitution

Article 360 of Indian Constitution

Uniform Civil Code

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