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Posted at: Feb 4, 2017, 2:13 AM; last updated: Feb 4, 2017, 11:50 AM (IST)

Forces Tribunal set to get teeth

Amendment Bill to arm it with powers to get orders implemented
Forces Tribunal set to get teeth

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 3

About a decade after the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007, was passed by Parliament, the judicial body is finally set to be armed with powers to get its judgments and orders implemented.

The Armed Forces Tribunal (Amendment) Bill is listed for consideration and passage before Parliament in the Budget Session, sources said.  Besides providing powers of civil contempt, it enhances the retirement age of AFT members and abrogates the system of re-appointment.

This gives some hope to defence litigants in whose favour decisions have been passed by the AFT, but the orders were not being implemented by the defence services or the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Though the AFT possesses powers of criminal contempt — empowering it to take action against any misbehaviour by an individual — it was not vested with civil contempt powers due to which its orders were not implemented.

The amendment, initiated in 2012, was referred to a Parliamentary Committee, where it was opposed by the Army.

The amendment Bill also proposes to enhance the retirement age of the AFT chairperson and judicial members to 67 years from 65. The period of appointment has also been enhanced to five years from four.

Advocate Maj Navdeep Singh — on whose PIL the Punjab and Haryana High Court had earlier directed the Tribunal to take coercive action against authorities for non-compliance of its decisions — said if enacted, the Bill would provide security of tenure and more stability to members since officers against whom AFT orders are to be passed form part of the re-appointment selection committee.

The Chandigarh Bench of AFT has been without any judicial member since the retirement of Justice Surinder Singh Thakur in September last year, bringing all judicial work to a standstill.

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