Chief Justice of the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, Justice Gita Mittal has asked the Central Government to establish Administrative Tribunals in the Union Territory of J&K, having permanent benches at both Jammu as well as Srinagar.
This development is in the backdrop of Central Government's notification dated April 29, 2020 whereby Chandigarh Bench of CAT has been conferred with the jurisdiction to adjudicate service matters relating employees of government of UT of J&K.
In a letter addressed to the Union Minister of State, Dr. Jitendra Singh, Justice Mittal has expressed deep concern regarding lack of required number of Benches with permanent seats in J&K. She has stated that only a single circuit bench at Chandigarh would be "hopelessly insufficient" in providing efficacious dispensation to the disputants in service matters in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh.
Justice Mittal has pointed out that separate Tribunal Benches have been created for States having extremely low pendency. For instance, the Bengaluru Bench has only 895 cases and Gawahati Bench has 597 cases. However, no Bench has been established for the UT having a total of 30596 pending service matters.
The letter states that pendency of service matters in the UT is much more than the pendency before the Principal Bench of CAT or as compared to Benches in larger states. As per a preliminary enquiry made in both Wings of the High Court, 30596 service matters are already pending and 1936 fresh cases have been filed in the UT. Whereas,
"In the Principal Bench at Delhi as on 29th February 2020, there were only 10019 cases which is one-third of the current pendency of the service matters in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir.
Also the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has pendency equivalent to three-fourth of the total pendency before all the Administrative Tribunals in India," the letter highlights.
The letter also states that the number of Government employees in the UT is more than those in other states in the country and hence, absence of Administrative Tribunal having permanent benches within the UT itself, will "adversely impact" the fundamental right of access to Justice as also the legitimate expectation of efficacious and expeditious remedy.
On a related note, a PIL has been filed in the High Court of J&K, challenging the Government order for transfer of service matters to Chandigarh. The plea, amongst other grounds, states that the notification fails the "test of proportionality and reasonableness" inasmuch as CAT, Chandigarh doesn't have sufficient benches and is already buried with pending matters.
The Notification issued by the Central Government on April 29, 2020 has the effect of transferring all service disputes pertaining to the employees of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir which are pending before the High Court or yet to be filed from the date of Notification, to CAT, Chandigarh.
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