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'Abandon Tribunal System If Not Interested in Appointing Members' : Bombay High Court To Centre On CAT Vacancies

Sharmeen Hakim
12 Aug 2021 4:09 PM GMT
Abandon Tribunal System If Not Interested in Appointing Members : Bombay High Court To Centre On CAT Vacancies
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The court was seized with a central government employee's plea, whose challenge against his transfer wasn't taken up for several months by CAT's Mumbai Bench.

The Bombay High Court on Thursday reprimanded the Centre for failing to fill up the adjudicating members' posts to the Central Administrative Tribunal, practically rendering it non-functional. Chief Justice Dipankar Datta leading the bench, remarked that the Centre might as well abandon the tribunal system, brought in to ease the burden of cases before the High Court if it...

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The Bombay High Court on Thursday reprimanded the Centre for failing to fill up the adjudicating members' posts to the Central Administrative Tribunal, practically rendering it non-functional.

Chief Justice Dipankar Datta leading the bench, remarked that the Centre might as well abandon the tribunal system, brought in to ease the burden of cases before the High Court if it wasn't interested in making appointments.

The court was seized with a central government employee's plea, whose challenge against his transfer wasn't taken up for several months by CAT's Mumbai Bench. It was the fourth hearing with the same complaint.

Petitioner Benkatesh Sharma's counsel - Ramesh Ramamurthy- informed the bench that only a division bench could adjudicate original side matters. However, since only one judicial member was appointed in Mumbai, Jammu's CAT member held the additional charge for Mumbai. Hence his plea kept for final hearing was not taken up.

"Now we have been reading reports about how the Supreme Court is pulling up the Central Government for not filling up the vacant posts in the tribunals all over. Why is this happening? If you don't want the tribunal to function, don't appoint. Abandon the tribunal system of adjudication. In 1985, the Act was introduced to lessen the burden of the High Court," the bench remarked after calling upon the Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh for Union of India.

The bench was particularly concerned about less privileged government employees who wouldn't be able to approach the High Court like the petitioner.

"There may be other employees in a far worse situation than this petitioner who don't have the resources to come to court and get an order that my matter should be given precedence."

The court had sought to know from the Registrar of CAT Mumbai if physical hearings are likely to resume anytime soon when the petitioner's matter was not taken up even after several months. However, since one judicial member is in Mumbai and the administrative member is in Jammu, the bench noted that a physical hearing is impossible.

Appointments to tribunals take anywhere between 10-12 months, the Chief Justice added.

"I am on the Selection Committee as Chairman of the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal. Selections are made, but appointments are made one year later. Why can't it be expedited?"

In the present case, he said, a simple order of transfer is under challenge. "You know the limited grounds on which a transfer can be challenged. But even then the tribunal is helpless. Can we fault the tribunal if the member is not there? Unfortunately, only one of four regular members is there", the court added.

In this backdrop, the court sought to know if member names are pending before the Ministry or not and suggested an amendment to the rules so that a single member could adjudicate proceedings.

The matter was then adjourned to August 23, 2021.

Case Title: [Benkatesh Sharma vs UoI]

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