New Tribunal rules and advertisement for AFT members come under HC scanner

New Tribunal rules and advertisement for AFT members come under HC scanner

For representation only. File photo

Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, August 11 

A Public Interest Litigation filed before the Punjab and Haryana High Court has sought a stay on the enforcement of new rules governing various Tribunals as well as a recent advertisement for filling up vacancies of administrative members on the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).

A Division Bench of the High Court comprising Bench Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli has issued a notice of motion and notice regarding stay to the Central Government.

In the PIL, the petitioner, Lt Col SN Sharma (retd), a former president of the AFT Bar Association, has averred that in November 2019, the Supreme Court had struck down tribunal rules introduced by the central government in 2017. The Apex Court had then asked the government to reframe the rules in consonance with parent statutes governing tribunals and law laid down by the court earlier for ensuring independence of tribunals. 

The PIL has pointed out that the new rules issued in 2020, however, carried only cosmetic changes and continue with the control of the executive over tribunals. 

It states that Section 6 of the AFT Act only permits appointment of retired Major Generals and above as Administrative Members.The new rules and advertisement, on the other hand, make any person with experience in economics, management, commerce, industry, etc. eligible to be appointed as an administrative member, 

The PIL contends that not only is this in contravention of the Act but also law laid down by a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, which has already ruled that such ambiguous clauses cannot be introduced for appointments in tribunals.

The PIL also avers that the AFT continues to be placed under the control of the defence ministry and has the defence secretary as a part of the selection committee which is against the law laid down by the Supreme Court in L Chandra Kumar vs Union of India and Madras Bar Association vs Union of India as well as the dicta of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Navdeep Singh vs Union of India, wherein the government was ordered to place the AFT under the Law Ministry.

Legal experts point out that multiple decisions by the Supreme Court for ensuring independence of tribunals have not been implemented by successive governments in letter and spirit leading to varied problems in their functioning and autonomy. 

 

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