CAT Chairman, Members Do Not Occupy Exalted Position Of A High Court Judge, Says Kerala HC [Read Judgment]
"The post of Members of the CAT is only statutory and not constitutional."
The Chairman and Members of the Central Administrative Tribunal do not occupy the exalted position of a Judge of the High Court, observed the Kerala High Court.
This observation came from a bench comprising of Justice V. Chitambaresh and Justice Ashok Menon while considering a writ appeal against a single bench order which had allowed a claim of a Judicial Member of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) (who served during the period from 10.7.1989 to 9.7.1994) of retiral benefits as applicable to the Judges of the High Court.
The issue considered by the bench was whether the said judicial member was entitled to the benefit of Section 8(3) of the Administrative Tribunals Act as amended with effect from 19.2.2007 when his tenure of office as Member of the CAT ended on 9.7.1994.
The court noted that, by virtue of Section 10A of the Act, a Member appointed before the commencement of the Administrative Tribunals (Amendment) Act, 2006 continue to be governed by the provisions of the Act and the Rules made thereunder as unamended. As regards the reliance placed on the Supreme Court judgment in Ramakrishnam Raju P. v. Union of India, the bench said:
"The dictum in Ramakrishnam Raju's case is applicable only to the Judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court and does not at all deal with the conditions of service of the Chairman and Members of the CAT."
The bench further noted that the post of Members of the CAT is only statutory and not constitutional as in the case of Judges of the High Court and Supreme Court. It added:
"That Administrative Tribunals are constituted under Article 323-A of the Constitution of India is no ground to treat the respondent as a constitutional appointee. The conditions of service applicable to Judges of the High Court have been extended to the Chairman and Members of the CAT only by virtue of Section 8(3) of the Act. We have already held that the amended provisions of Section 8(3) of the Act do not apply to the respondent on account of the statutory embargo in Section 10A of the Act. The respondent did not hold the rank of a High Court Judge to be extended the benefits even if the lauded principle of 'One Rank One Pension' is to be applied as contended. The Chairman and Members of the CAT do not occupy the exalted position of a Judge of the High Court merely because they are given the same benefits with effect from 19.2.2007."