CAT Chairman Cannot Stay Pending Proceedings Before A Larger Bench: SC [Read Judgment]

CAT Chairman Cannot Stay Pending Proceedings Before A Larger Bench: SC [Read Judgment]

"In any case, judicial decorum and propriety demands that a judicial order, ad interim, interim or final be vacated, varied, modified, recalled or reviewed by a Bench of coordinate strength or larger strength or a higher forum, but not a smaller Bench of lesser strength, except in cases where such authority to a lower forum and/or smaller Bench is expressly conferred or implicit in the order sought to be vacated, varied, modified, recalled or reviewed."

The Supreme Court on Friday observed that the Chairman of Central Administrative Tribunal, sitting singly, cannot stay proceedings pending before a larger Bench.

The bench comprising Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Indira Banerjee observed that, the Chairman acting judicially is equal to any other Member and is 'one amongst equals'.

In All India Institute of Medical Sciences vs. Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the Chairman of the Central Administrative Tribunal, sitting singly, stayed proceedings in an Original Application pending before a two member Bench at Nainital for a period of six weeks. This order was passed on an application filed by Union of India before the Chairman of the Tribunal seeking transfer of OA to the Principal Bench at Delhi. The High Court allowed the writ petition against this order observing that the Chairman of the Tribunal, while sitting singly, could not stay the proceedings pending before the Division Bench.

In the appeal filed by All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the Apex court bench considered the issue whether the Chairman of the Tribunal, sitting singly and exercising his power under Section 25 of the Act, to transfer proceedings from one Bench to another, could have stayed proceedings before a two member Bench and rendered interim orders passed by that Bench inoperative.

Referring extensively to the provisions of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, the bench said that that the Chairman deciding the question of whether a matter should be transferred from one Bench to another cannot grant interim stay of proceedings, their being no power conferred on the Chairman under the said section to pass such interim stay. The court observed:

"The Chairman was of the considered opinion that there was urgency in the application for vacating the interim order, the Chairman ought to have assigned the application for vacating and/or vacation of the interim order to a Bench of two or more Members to consider whether the interim order should continue or be vacated. The Chairman could also have exercised his power to suo motu transfer the proceedings to another Bench without prior notice. The order of stay of the proceedings before the Nainital Bench is without jurisdiction and unsustainable in law."

The bench further added:

"In any case, judicial decorum and propriety demands that a judicial order, ad interim, interim or final be vacated, varied, modified, recalled or reviewed by a Bench of coordinate strength or larger strength or a higher forum, but not a smaller Bench of lesser strength, except in cases where such authority to a lower forum and/or smaller Bench is expressly conferred or implicit in the order sought to be vacated, varied, modified, recalled or reviewed."

The court further observed that though the Chairman, like the Chief Justice of the Higher Courts or the Chief Judge of subordinate courts, may be higher in order of protocol and may have additional administrative duties and responsibilities, but when, acting judicially, he is equal to any other Member. The Chairman, being one amongst equals, could not have stayed proceedings pending before a larger Bench, the bench said, upholding the High court order.

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