Chandigarh, October 4
The ongoing controversy over the transfer of the judicial member of the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), has taken a new turn with the AFT Chandigarh Bench Bar Association claiming to have proof of direct interference of the Ministry of Defence in the judicial functioning of the AFT.
In a letter written to Chief Justice of India, Dr DY Chandrachud, on October 4, the Bar has averred that the remarks made by defence minister Rajnath Singh at an event conducted by the Defence Accounts Department (DAD) point towards this.
“A video clip which has gone viral on social media of an event conducted by DAD on October 1 shows the defence minister openly admitting the interference of the ministry in the matter of the transfer of the judicial member just before he could hear the case of contempt, wherein he is openly heard saying ‘that one cannot keep everybody happy and one of your officers just got saved and escaped, and further adding that a hint was enough regarding this incident,” the letter states.
On September 25, Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary, the senior-most Judicial Member-cum-Head of Department of the AFT’s Chandigarh Bench, was transferred to the Kolkata Bench "for administrative reasons in public interest."
The move had prompted the Bar to write to the Chief Justice of India, averring that it was a direct assault on the independence of the judiciary because strict orders were being passed against senior government officials for non-implementations of AFT judgments. The Bar has since abstained from work.
In its letter today, the Bar has referred to two previous letters written to the Chief Justice. On September 25, the Bar had averred that Justice Chaudhary was posted out a day before he was to hear a contempt case against a DAD officer for non-implementation of judicial orders in order to save her. All contempt applications in other benches have also been transferred by the AFT Chairperson to his own court.
On August 3, the Bar had written that the Defence Secretary had asked the Chandigarh Bench to submit a report on the decisions on pay and pension matters taken by the Bench. Since the defence ministry is the first respondent in all cases before the AFT, it amounted to direct interference.
While stressing that the integrity of the defence minister and the defence secretary is not being questioned, the Bar has claimed that they are being misguided by officials of the defence ministry who face much heat from various courts and tribunals.
Stating that interference in judicial functioning of the tribunal is neither acceptable to the lawyers nor litigants and has shaken the faith of veterans, disabled ex-servicemen and widows who constitute the majority of litigants before the tribunal, the Bar has urged the Chief Justice to take cognizance of this matter.
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