February 8, 2023

Difference between court and Tribunal according to supreme court

The word “Courts” is used to designate those Tribunals which are set up in an organised State for the administration of justice. By Administration of Justice is meant the exercise of judicial power of the State to maintain and uphold rights and to punish “wrongs”. Whenever there is an infringement of a right or an injury, the Courts are there to restore the vinculum juris, which is disturbed. Where there is a lis an affirmation by one party and denial by another-and the dispute necessarily involves a decision on the rights and obligations of the parties to it and the authority is called upon to decide it, there is an exercise of judicial power. That authority is called a Tribunal, if it does not have all the trappings of a court.

“All tribunals are not courts, though all Courts are Tribunals”

The word “Courts” is used to designate those Tribunals which are set up in an organised State for the Administration of Justice. By Administration of justice is meant the exercise of judicial power of the State to maintain and uphold rights and to punish “wrongs”. Whenever there is an infringement of a right or an injury, the Courts are there to restore the vinculum juris, which is disturbed.[1]

In that case Hidayatullah, J. said:

“….By “courts” is meant courts of civil judicature and by “tribunals”, those bodies of men who are appointed to decide controversies arising under certain special laws. Among the powers of the State is included the power to decide such controversies. This is undoubtedly one of the attributes of the State and is aptly called the judicial power of the State. In the exercise of this power, a clear division is thus noticeable.

Broadly speaking, certain special matters go before tribunals, and the residue goes before the ordinary courts of civil judicature. Their procedures may differ, but the functions are not essentially different. What distinguishes them has never been successfully established. Lord Stamp said that the real distinction is that the courts have “an air of detachment”. But this is more a matter of age and tradition and is not of the essence. Many tribunals, in recent years, have acquitted themselves so well and with such detachment as to make this test insufficient.”


[1] Harinagar Sugar Mills Ltd. v. Shyam Sunder Jhunjhunwala & Ors., [1962] 2 SCR 339