Millennium Post

Process for filling vacancies at AFT’s going on: Centre to SC

The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that the process for filling up vacancies of judicial members in various Armed Force Tribunal was underway.

A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, which took a suo motu cognizance of vacancies in various Armed Force Tribunal (AFT), were told by top law officers that the appointment process was going on and there was a need to seek instructions from the concerned ministry. Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said the representation received by the apex court contained the submission of lawyer and the situation was not as what has been projected.

However, the bench, which also comprised Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao, said the petition was about vacancies at AFT and there was a complete breakdown of the system. Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh said he had spoken to the concerned ministry and the process of appointing judicial officers in various AFTs was going on.

The bench said “there is no lawyer and no presiding officer”.

Singh said he needed to seek further instructions on the matter and sought the matter to be listed on November 15. The apex court then posted the matter for the same day. Recently, the AFT Bar Association had written to Chief Justice TS Thakur seeking appointment of judicial members of AFTs claiming that the work there has almost come to a “standstill”. 

In the letter to Chief Justice, copies of which was sent to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajiv Manglik, Secretary of the AFT (PB) Bar Association, said there were only five benches functional out of a total of 17, which had resulted in a lack of access to justice to military personnel, disabled soldiers and even widows of defence personnel.

“While it is claimed that there are not enough applicants for the posts, it is learnt that appointments already approved by the Selection Committee have not yet been notified,” the letter said. 

It said the reason articulated by the government to create AFT was “speedy and less expensive dispensation of justice”, but with the passing years, it emerges that perhaps the actual reason was simply to take out the jurisdiction of such matters from the inherently independent constitutional courts and bring them under a departmental tribunal which functions under the Ministry of Defence. 
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