In a landmark order, the Supreme Court (SC) has held that appeals against Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) orders cannot be filed before the SC as a matter of right. It ruled that permission from the AFT is mandatory before approaching SC directly, though the refusal for permission can be challenged in the apex court.
Section 30 of AFT Act deals with issue of appeals to Supreme Court. The section 31 of the Act which deals with leave to appeal says that an appeal to the Supreme Court shall lie with the leave of the Tribunal; and such leave shall not be granted unless it is certified by the Tribunal that a point of law of general public importance is involved in the decision.
The bench comprising Justice TS Thakur and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra observed that the plain reading of Section 30 said that it was subject to the provisions of Section 31 of the Act. '
The bench commented, "The expression "subject to the provisions of Section 31" cannot be rendered a surplusage for one of the salutary rules of interpretation is that the legislature does not waste words. Each word used in the enactment must be allowed to play its role howsoever significant or insignificant the same may be in achieving the legislative intent and promoting legislative object."
Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha argued that there might be circumstances in which urgent orders might be required to be issued and an application for grant of certificate before the Tribunal might prevent the aggrieved party from seeking such orders from apex court. The Supreme Court clarified that "appeal is presumed to be pending until an application for leave to appeal is disposed of…"
The judgment said, "A conjoint reading of Sections 30 and 31 can lead to only one conclusion viz. there is no vested right of appeal against a final order or decision of the Tribunal to this Court other than those under Section 30(2) of the Act." Section 30(2) of the Act deals with punishment for contempt of court.
The order is significant as the central government was approaching apex court frequently with appeals in every second matter.