Govt clears armed forces tribunal
New Delhi, September 29
As part of the efforts to meet the shortage of pilots in the Indian Air Force (IAF), the government also cleared the proposal for extension of the service tenure of woman pilots and navigators of transport aircraft and helicopters from 10 to 14 years on an optional basis.
A meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave the approval for the setting up of the armed forces tribunal. The tribunal would deal with appeals against court martial verdicts and grievances related to conditions of service including promotions, confirmations and appointments.
The tribunal would be formed on the lines of the Central Administrative Tribunal and its composition would be incorporated in the Armed Forces Tribunal Bill 2005 which will have to be passed by Parliament.
After the meeting of the Cabinet, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters here that the legislation would require amendments to the Army Act, Navy Act and the Air Force Act. He said the decision had been taken in the light of a Supreme Court directive for setting up a quasi-judicial tribunal. The tribunal was mooted during the tenure of former Defence Minister George Fernandes to prevent senior military officials from going to civil courts for redressal of their grievances. Some of such cases have also been in the media attention, specially recently with the judiciary ensuring promotion for some such officers, who had been ignored for promotion in the normal process.
The legal departments of the armed forces and experts of the defence ministry conducted thorough studies on the shape to be given to the armed forces tribunal over the past few years.
Mr Chidambaram said the three service chiefs had been consulted with regard to setting up of the tribunal and they had recommended it.
To a question, he said the tribunal would be headed by a person who has been a Judge. The issue of setting up of the tribunal has also been examined by the Law Commission. The move to establish the tribunal assumes significance since 7,300 cases of armed forces personnel are pending before the High Courts and the Supreme Court. Defence Ministry sources said it was upto the courts to adjudicate whether to transfer these cases to the tribunal when it takes shape.
In another decision the Cabinet decided to extend the tenure of the IAF women pilots from 10 to 14 years. The extension of tenure would also apply to women personnel serving as Short Service Commission (SSC) officers in Aeronautical Engineering (Electronic and Mechanical) and non-technical ground duty branches as well as those serving in administrative, accounts, education and meteorology beyond December, 2005.