The apex court has issued notice to the Centre and agreed to hear a plea by a martyr’s father, a resident of SAS Nagar, challenging the constitutional validity of Sections 30 and 31 of the Armed Force Tribunal (AFT) Act, which bar any kind of appeal by the military community against the AFT orders except in cases involving a “point of law of general public importance”.
Gurbax Singh Dhindsa, father of Flying Officer GS Dhindsa, who had died in a fighter aircraft crash at Srinagar in the aftermath of Kargil operations, was refused the correct pension by the defence accounts department. Though the AFT granted him his entitlement, it refused to grant him interest from the date of death. When Dhindsa wanted to approach the high court, he was informed that high courts had been barred from entertaining challenges to AFT orders by a Supreme Court verdict of March 2015, passed on a plea filed by the Centre.
The Supreme Court could hear only AFT appeals involving ‘general public importance’.
Dhindsa had challenged the provisions of the Act on the grounds that the AFT had been rendered the first and last court for litigants without any remedy or access against its orders.
It has been stated that the situation was against the law laid down by the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench holding that a direct appeal to the Supreme Court made justice inaccessible and unaffordable. It has also been stated that the SC had earlier observed that litigants could not afford the cost and expenses of contesting litigation in the apex court and “suffer silently in the name of God by treating it their destiny”.
He has emphasised that the defence community could not be placed at a lower pedestal than other citizens, who could challenge the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal in the high court, and if still not satisfied, to the Supreme Court. Many ex-servicemen organisations and legal experts have expressed concern over the lack of access to high court over AFT orders.