AFT amongst different tribunals to see vital useful change after SC verdict

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 27

The character and functioning of quasi-judicial bodies like the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), among others, would change significantly after the Supreme Court on Friday said that a National Tribunal Commission shall be created for administering all tribunals in the country.

This ruling by a Bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and R Ravindra Bhat, would free the tribunals from the executive control of the ministry in relation to which they were mandated to hear cases.

The apex court has further directed that till the commission is created, a separate wing shall be constituted under the Finance Ministry to look after all requirements of the tribunals, which from now on shall not be dependent upon ministries against which they may have to pass orders or judgments.

The court has expressed displeasure that multiple decisions of Constitution Benches have not been implemented by the Central government till date.

There are several tribunals in India that were constituted with the objective of delivering speedy, inexpensive and decentralised adjudication of disputes in various matters such as service, tax, railway claims, environment and defence service.

The SC has also held that the secretary of the concerned department against whom orders are to be passed by the tribunal shall not have a say or vote in the selection of members for the tribunal.

Legal experts said that the decision would finally free all tribunals from executive control and ensure their independence and boost confidence of litigants.

The direct positive effect of the decision would be felt by tribunals such as the AFT and the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which were functioning under the same ministries which were the opposite parties in litigation before them and whose secretaries were selecting the adjudicating members of the said tribunals.

A Bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and RK Jain of the Punjab and Haryana High Court had, in the case filed by high court lawyer Major Navdeep Singh in 2012, also directed the government to take the AFT out from the purview of the Ministry of Defence and to reconstitute the selection committee.

“The high court’s decision had been challenged in the SC by the government but the SC had not stayed its operation. Only contempt proceedings had been stayed,” Navdeep Singh, when contacted, said. “Now the SC has in effect reiterated the same observations strongly”, he added.

According to the SC’s orders today, members of the tribunals shall get an increased tenure of 5 years and the house rent allowance would also be hiked to Rs 1.25 lakh and Rs 1.5 lakh for the members and chairpersons respectively.

The Madras Bar Association was the lead litigant in the judgment pronounced today and a similar petition filed by the AFT Bar Association through its Secretary, Rajiv Manglik, was also listed with it.


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