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Entire CAT has collapsed, extend tenure of members, says Top Court

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday took serious note of huge vacancies in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and said that the entire tribunal has collapsed.

The Top Court noted that the Centre in its affidavit has said that benches that have vacancies are functioning through physical/hybrid mode and virtual modes by joining members from other benches.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Surya Kant said that if the remaining 27 members of the tribunals out of the total sanctioned strength of 69 also retires, then it would further collapse.

The bench said, "How will the tribunal work if appointments are not made? You (Centre) made the advertisement in April 2022 and the selection would obviously take some time. It has collapsed and if the remaining members also retire, then it would further collapse."

It directed, "In this view of the matter since the vacancies in the CAT would impinge upon the citizens' right of access to justice, this court is of the considered view that in the exercise of jurisdiction of Article 142 is mandated."

"We accordingly direct pending further orders, the incumbent holding the post of members of the CAT either the judicial member or the administrative member shall continue to function even after the completion of their tenure, subject to their consent and availability."

The bench said that this arrangement is being made till the next date of listing of the matter by which date it is being anticipated by the Union of India that the vacancies would be filled up. It listed the matter on July 26.

The bench noted in its order that in CAT out of the sanctioned strength of 69 judges only 27 judges are in possession, leaving 43 vacancies inclusive of the chairperson.

It said that a chart submitted by the Additional Solicitor General Balbir Singh, appearing for Centre, during the hearing indicates that further vacancies are due to occur on June 17, June 30 and thereafter there are vacancies which will take place on August 23, September 3, 14, 29 and November 2 and 14, 2022.

It said, "The vacancies circular has been issued on April 4, 2022. The ASG states that it is anticipated that the process of appointment will be completed by the end of July 2022."

It said that the counter affidavit demonstrates that most benches of the CAT have substantial vacancies and the constitution of regular benches for hearing petitions would be a difficult exercise.

Singh said that they have received more than 600 applications from candidates and vacancies would be filled by July end.

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