The Jabalpur Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on Friday conducted its first hearing through Video Conferencing. This is the first instance that any Bench of the CAT has heard cases in the virtual mode.
CAT's Principal Bench and all its branches across the country had been non-functional since March 20, due to the lockdown. In a statement issued last month, the CAT had clarified that functioning of the Tribunal through video conferencing was not possible due to absence of the requisite infrastructure and the hurdles in procuring the same due to the lockdown.
However, on May 2, the Tribunal finally issued a notification for hearing of cases via VC across all its Benches.
The first case heard via Video Conferencing related to termination of a Central Government employee working with the SAIL, for allegedly obtaining employment on the basis of a false caste certificate.
In the backdrop, a High Power Caste Scrutiny Committee had cancelled the caste certificate of the Applicant. Thereby, his employment contract was terminated for having been obtained on the basis of a false caste certificate.
Operation of the Scrutiny Committee's decision however came to be stayed in proceedings before the Chhattisgarh High Court, on the basis of which the Applicant approached the CAT seeking re-instatement of his services, and an interim relief of letting the Applicant work as an employee until the final outcome of the proceedings.
The Centre claimed that the Applicant's case, as held by the Supreme Court in plethora of cases, was liable to be dismissed for having sought the same interim and final relief. However, the Tribunal observed to the contrary.
The Tribunal held that while in the final relief the Applicant had sought entitlement to "consequential benefits" of his employment, the same was not the case if the interim relief which only sought for discharge of services until the outcome of the challenge.
"Comparing this [final relief] and para 9 of OA quoted above [interim relief] clearly indicates that "consequential benefits" words are missing in para 9. The impugned order mentions about non payment of CPF, Gratuity, Pension, SESBF and Leave Encashment etc. Even if the applicant is taken back in services (as prayed in the interim relief), these retiral payments are not to be paid.
Therefore, we do not find interim relief prayed for as same as final relief," the Tribunal held.
In related news, the Delhi High Court had recently asked the CAT to examine the feasibility of commencing hearing of urgent matters by video conferencing, so that the High Courts are not swamped by a deluge of petitions which otherwise would lie within the jurisdiction of the CAT.
The observation was made after a Delhi Govt employee approached the High Court seeking hearing of his "service matter", on account of non-functioning of the CAT.
Case Title: Santosh Kumar Bhaskar v. Union of India & Ors.
Case No.: OA No. 203/296/2020
Quorum: Ramesh Singh Thankur (Judicial Member) and Navin Tandon (Member)
Appearance: Advocate Vijay Tripathi (for Applicant); Advocate Ashish Surana (for Respondents)
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