Justice will be compromised with new AFT rules, says Bar association
The defence secretary will now have a role in ordering inquiries against members of the tribunal and their removal, which was undertaken by a Supreme Court judge till now.punjab Updated: Jul 12, 2017 16:14 IST
Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Bar Association of Chandigarh is up in arms against new AFT rules.
Under the new rules, notified by the government in June, AFT will continue to function under the ministry of defence (MoD) despite the fact that cases involve the ministry itself. The new rules also reiterate the role of the defence secretary in selecting the members of the AFT, but consultation with Chief Justice of India (CJI) has been abrogated.
The defence secretary will now have a role in ordering inquiries against members of the tribunal and their removal, which was undertaken by a Supreme Court judge till now.
The facilities and benefits of retired high court judges appointed as judicial members have been downgraded. The new rules have reduced the existing tenure of judges from 4 years to 3, and have provided for re-appointment by a selection committee of which the defence secretary is a member and is the first opposite party in all litigation.
While the earlier provisions barred the post-retirement employment of judges with the government, the new rules specifically allow such employment. Lawyers say that it would impact independence of judges.
Under the new rules, any advocate with 10-year practice can be appointed as the AFT chairperson, while the lower appointment of judicial member can only be held by a high court judge. Earlier, chairperson used to be only a retired apex court judge.
Even the administrative members who used to be retired lieutenant general now can be people with 20 years of experience in law, commerce, management, finance, accountancy and industry.
The Punjab and Haryana high court had directed the central government in 2012 in Navdeep Singh versus Union of India to place the AFT under the law ministry, and also to recast the selection committee. When the UPA government had approached the SC with a Special Leave Petition, the apex court had refused to stay the judgement and had only agreed to stay the contempt proceedings in the high court. The case is still pending.
“These new rules are mockery of justice. The AFT shouldn’t be under MoD, as it is a party in all the cases. These rules are a ploy to get favourable orders,” said Justice Surinder Singh Thakur (retd), who retired from Chandigarh bench of AFT in September last year.
“The change in rules for administrative members would allow IAS officers to enter. The facilities and benefits are downgraded for judicial members. I don’t think retired high court judges should go to AFT now, as it has been diluted. There is no independence of judicial system now,” he said.
After retirement of Justice Thakur, Centre is yet to appoint any new judicial member at Chandigarh-bench of AFT.
“Now administrative members on the bench could come from anywhere. If we do not have people from defence background, how can justice be delivered? The new rules have given more power to central government in appointing judges and removing them. We protest against these rules,” said Anupama Sharma, secretary, AFT Bar Association of Chandigarh.
Delhi AFT Bar Association had also observed strike against the new rules last week.