4 Aug 2023 4:13 PM GMT
The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Chandigarh Bar Association has requested Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud to take suo moto cognizance of the allegedly "shockingly contemptuous communication" issued by the D(AFT) Cell of the Ministry of Defence to the Principal Bench of AFT on July 28. In the communication, the Defence Secretary is stated to have demanded a report on the recent...
The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Chandigarh Bar Association has requested Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud to take suo moto cognizance of the allegedly "shockingly contemptuous communication" issued by the D(AFT) Cell of the Ministry of Defence to the Principal Bench of AFT on July 28. In the communication, the Defence Secretary is stated to have demanded a report on the recent decisions on pay/pension matters by AFT Chandigarh "with analysis thereof".
“The Defence Secretary has directed the AFT for preparation of an analysis of judicial decisions of the Chandigarh Bench on pay and pension matters, further asking the Principal Bench to furnish comments on the same by 5 PM as if the tribunal is a department functioning under him,” the Association said in the letter seeking "initiation of Contempt Proceedings against the Defence Secretary for direct Interference in the administration of justice and judicial functioning of the Armed Forces Tribunal".
In August 03 letter, it further said that the Defence Secretary is a litigant before the AFT and is in fact 'Respondent No 1 in all cases being heard in the AFT, and such a "direction" and seeking "analysis" or "inputs" on the judicial orders passed by the AFT is direct interference in judicial functioning.
Referring to Income Tax Appellate Tribunal vs VK Agarwal, it said that in a similar case the Supreme Court had convicted the Secretary concerned for criminal contempt for sending communications to the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and interfering with the judicial functioning of the tribunal.
The Association said that it strongly objects to the Defence Secretary passing directions and orders to a judicial body and treating the AFT as a department under the MoD, while in reality, "it is meant to be an independent statutory tribunal."
Seeking an analysis of judgments from a judicial body since adverse orders are being passed against an official litigant amounts to an absolute crossing of “lakshman-rekha” by the concerned officer and browbeating of a court and cannot be taken lightly by the legal community and must not be overlooked in any manner, the lawyers body said.
"In fact, in terms of the law laid down by the Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Union of India vs R Gandhi, Swiss Ribbons Pvt Ltd vs Union of India and lately again in Madras Bar Association vs Union of India, the MoD cannot even be the parent administrative ministry of the AFT and its infrastructural and other support must come from the Ministry of Law & Justice or at best the Ministry of Finance, till the National Tribunal Commission is created as directed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court."
It alleged that the appointments of staff for the tribunal are not being made and finances for daily functioning are not being released, which is only because of the fact that the tribunal is perceived to be passing orders against "government policy" by the MoD.
“The Chandigarh Bench faces an extreme staff and financial crunch and the same seems to be the position in other benches too. The Members of the AFT too are facing extreme shortage of personal staff and absence of resources and basic comforts,” it said.
It further said that the tenure of Chairperson of the Tribunal has only been given a tenure of 3 years, whereas as per law, the tenure should have been minimum 5 years.
Such actions of controlling and rationing the staff, infrastructure and resources of the AFT are a way of indirectly controlling the judicial functioning of the tribunal which is being thought to be some inferior body of the MoD and which has now come out in the open in terms of the communication dated 28.07.2023, it added.
The Association said that MoD must immediately be divested from any kind of hold or control over the AFT in terms of the law laid down by the Supreme Court.
Requesting the apex court to take suo moto cognisance, the Association said that, “suo-moto cognizance may kindly be taken of this letter-petition and appropriate proceedings be initiated against the Officer concerned for directly interfering in the judicial functioning of the AFT by way of a communication which is not only contemptuous, but also illegal, unethical and against the spirit of Article 50 of the Constitution of India …”
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