Armed Forces Tribunal to begin functioning by August

July 2nd, 2008 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, July 2 (IANS) The Armed Forces Tribunal that will adjudicate on service and other matters relating to the military which the Supreme Court and the various high courts currently hear will begin functioning by mid-August, a defence ministry official said. The selection committee to appoint its chairperson has already been constituted, he added.

The tribunal will adjudicate disputes and complaints of armed forces officers and personnel relating to appointments, conditions of service and punishments handed down by military courts.

Hitherto, the only avenue available for appeal is the Supreme Court and the high courts.

“The tribunal would address the genuine grievances of armed forces personnel and at the same time ensure that the disciplinary system did not take a knocking,” the official told IANS, requesting anonymity since he was not authorized to speak to the media on the subject.

Once the tribunal is fully functional, some 12,000 cases pending in the Supreme Court and the high courts will be transferred to its principal bench here and its eight regional benches. Some 3,000-4,000 cases are pending in the Delhi High Court alone.

The tribunal was to have got down to business by June 1 but this got delayed as its chairman - a Supreme Court judge or a high court chief justice - has not been selected.

“The Supreme Court has already been approached seeking the Chief Justice of India’s nominations for the chairperson’s post as well as the chairman of the selection committee,” the official said.

“The tribunal will be made functional by (Independence Day) Aug 15,” the officer added.

The tribunal might become functional but it could be a while before its principal and regional benches begin hearing cases in earnest. This is because its rules, regulations and regulations will first have to be enunciated and then approved by the defence and law ministries before they come into effect.

The selection committee will appoint the members of the tribunal’s principal bench and regional benches at Chandigarh, Chennai, Guwahati, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow and Mumbai.

Besides the Supreme Court judge, the selection committee will comprise the secretaries of the defence and law ministries.

While the principal bench will be headed by a chairman, the regional benches will be headed by a presiding officer. All the benches will have two additional members each.

In the case of the Supreme Court, one of the members will be a judicial officer of the level of a registrar of the apex court and the other would be an officer of the rank of major general or equivalent of the other two services.

This officer will not hear cases but would provide administrative support to the bench.

High court judges would head the regional benches. One of their members would be a judicial officer of the registrar’s level. The other member, again performing only administrative duties, would be of the level of brigadier and equivalent.

Requests have also gone out for naming the 17 judicial officers for the regional benches, whose appointment would have to be first approved by the chairman of the principal bench.

“The principal registrars of various high courts have already been requested to forward their nominations for the appointment of 17 judicial members,” the official said.

Till now, no rules and regulations have been formulated to govern the functioning of the tribunals. This is because the law ministry returned a defence ministry file on the subject, saying this would first have to be approved by the chairman of the principal bench.

“Major rules relating to the practices and rules of procedure, rules on salary and service conditions of the chairperson, and the tribunal members and rules relating to their appointment have to be worked out,” the official pointed out.

“Rules regarding investigative powers, the conduct of the chairperson and the tribunal members and issues relating to contempt of court have also to be worked out,” the official added.

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