Armed Forces Tribunal inaugurated by president (Lead)

August 8th, 2009 - 8:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) President Pratibha Patil Saturday inaugurated the Armed Forces Tribunal, an exclusive court for nearly 2.5 million serving and retired defence personnel. The principal bench of the tribunal will start functioning Monday.
The tribunal will deal with nearly 9,000 cases filed by servicemen pending in various courts across the country.

“The establishment of the Armed Forces Tribunal, an exclusive court for the members of the army, navy and the air force will enhance their confidence and trust levels in the system of dispensation of justice in relation to their service matters. Hence, it marks an important milestone in the history of the armed forces in India,” Patil said at the inaugural function.

Set up by an act of parliament in Dec 2007, the tribunal will have its principal bench in New Delhi and eight regional benches across the country.

It will have 15 courts in all — three each in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow and one each in Jaipur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai and Kochi.

“When a new institution is set up to meet a specific demand or to fill a lacuna, the expectations from it are usually high. However, a new body has an advantage as while framing rules, regulations and working methodologies, it can do so in a way that will fulfil its mandate in the most effective manner,” Patil said.

“Consisting of both judicial and administrative members, it is in a position to dispense justice by combining legal knowledge with a complete input of the ground realities in which the armed forces operate,” she said.

The tribunal will act as a civil court while adjudicating in service matters and as a criminal court when hearing appeals against court martial. The judgement of the tribunal can only be challenged in the Supreme Court.

Law minister M. Veerappa Moily termed the event as a ‘magna carta’ in Indian military history and hoped that the tribunal will not get bogged down by the “juggernaut of bureaucracy”.

The tribunal’s chairperson will be a retired or serving judge of the Supreme Court or chief justice of a high court.

Justice A.K. Mathur, former judge of the Supreme Court, has been appointed the tribunal’s first chairperson and he assumed charge Sep 1, 2008.

The judicial members of the tribunal will be serving or retired judge of a high court while the administrative members would be officers of the rank of major general or equivalent in either of the three services or an officer not lower than the rank of a brigadier or equivalent who has rendered not less than one year of service as the judge advocate general of the army, navy or air force.

The government has already appointed eight judicial members and 15 administrative members, while seven judicial members are yet to be named.

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