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Posted at: Mar 22, 2016, 1:52 AM; last updated: Mar 22, 2016, 1:52 AM (IST)

Notice on soldier’s bail plea highlights problems in AFT Act

SC ruling leaves litigants with no option

  • The AFT Act bars an appeal against interlocutory or interim orders passed by the Tribunal, even to the SC and bail being an interlocutory order, there is no option but to approach the HC
  • Though the HCs granted relief till March 2015 to soldiers and ex-servicemen aggrieved by the AFT's orders, this stopped after an SC order, which stated that since an appeal was provided to the SC under the AFT Act, final orders of the Tribunal should only be challenged before the SC
  • This rendered litigants remediless as there was a statutory bar under Section 31 of the AFT Act in approaching the SC except in matters involving a 'point of law of general public importance'

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 21

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has issued notice to the Central Government after the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) rejected the bail plea of a soldier who was awarded 10-year rigorous imprisonment by a court martial for his alleged role in the office-jawan clash at Nyoma in 2012.

The notice has focused attention on provisions of the AFT Act and some recent judgments on it thereof, which have restricted the remedial measures available to armed forces personnel to appeal against orders passed by the AFT. A larger Bench of the Supreme Court is adjudicating on the issue and the matter is pending for settlement.

Though the petitioner’s appeal was pending before the Armed Forces Tribunal, he was denied bail despite being in detention for more than three-and-a-half years. He has contended that the AFT Act specifically bars an appeal against interlocutory or interim orders passed by the Tribunal, even to the Supreme Court and bail being an interlocutory order, there is no option but to approach the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution.

Though the High Courts were granting relief till March 2015 to soldiers and ex-servicemen aggrieved by the AFT’s orders, this stopped after an SC order, which stated that since an appeal was provided to the Supreme Court under the AFT Act, final orders of the Tribunal should only be challenged before the apex court only.

The situation caused a problem as it rendered litigants remediless because there was a statutory bar under Section 31 of the AFT Act in approaching the Supreme Court except in matters involving a ‘point of law of general public importance’.

While civilians had a 3-tier appeal mechanism comprising the lower courts, high courts and the SC, the Armed Forces Tribunal became the first and last court for the defence community.

It has been averred in the bail petition that since the Armed Forces Tribunal Act provides no scope of appeal for interim and interlocutory orders passed by the AFT and that even the Union of India has been approaching the High Courts against such orders.

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