Govt clips wings of Armed Forces Tribunal in new rules

The Union government has changed the rules governing appointment in the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), giving more powers to the Defence Secretary who would now have a role in ordering inquiries against members of the tribunal and their removal.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | Published:July 12, 2017 10:46 am
Armed Forces Tribunal, AFT, Defence Secretary, High Court, CJI, India news, Indian Express news Under the new rules, any advocate with 10 years of practice can be appointed as the AFT Chairperson while the lower appointment of Judicial Member can only be held by a High Court Judge. (File photo)

The Union government has changed the rules governing appointment in the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), giving more powers to the Defence Secretary who would now have a role in ordering inquiries against members of the tribunal and their removal. Contravening a Constitutional Bench judgement of the Supreme Court which directed the placement of tribunals under the Law Ministry, the new rules reiterate that the AFT will function under the Ministry of Defence which, incidentally, is the ministry against which all orders of the AFT are to be passed.

The rules also reiterate the role of the Defence Secretary in selecting the Members of the tribunal and even consultation with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has been abrogated. The Defence Secretary and other bureaucrats would now have a role in ordering inquiries against members of the tribunal and their removal, which could only be undertaken by a Supreme Court judge till now.

The facilities and benefits of retired High Court Judges appointed as Judicial Members have been downgraded to regular Group A (Class I) officers of the Central Government. While the SC had directed a longer tenure for tribunal members without a provision for re-appointment to ensure independence, the new rules have decreased even the existing tenure to 3 years and have provided for re-appointment by a selection committee, of which the Defence Secretary is a member. This, despite the fact that the Defence Secretary is the first respondent party in all litigation in AFT.

While the existing provisions barred the post-retirement employment of members with the government, the new rules specifically allow such employment. Under the new rules, any advocate with 10 years of practice can be appointed as the AFT Chairperson while the lower appointment of Judicial Member can only be held by a High Court Judge.

Chairman of All Indian Ex-servicemen Welfare Association and a practising advocate at AFT’s Chandigarh bench, Bhimsen Sehgal, said that the amendment to rules was wrong and it will degrade the status of the appointees. “Nobody will come forward to become a member of the AFT in view of such rules. Further, the AFT should come under the ambit of the Minstry of Law and not Ministry of Defence. It cannot function independently as all infrastructure is provided by MoD,” he said.

Sources say that the government had notified the rules even when the Punjab and Haryana High Court had directed the central government in 2012 to place the AFT under the Law Ministry and also to recast the selection committee. When the UPA Government had approached the SC with a Special Leave Petition, the apex court had refused to stay the judgement and had only agreed to stay the contempt proceedings in the HC.

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  1. V
    Vinayak
    Jul 15, 2017 at 7:19 pm
    This was the result of a few judgements gone against MOD.Any judgement going against MOD is never liked by them Now they want to bring judiciary under them.God save MOD.
    Reply
    1. R
      Ravi
      Jul 14, 2017 at 6:13 pm
      Enemy within. Sure smallest country will take over India soon, if this kind of actions against Armed Forces continue. Be ready to be sold
      Reply
      1. W
        Wg.Cdr.V.Sundaresan(Retd)
        Jul 13, 2017 at 10:12 am
        Next a MAL OR MP may be made and nabus can control remotely
        Reply
        1. S
          Shreepanjali Mod
          Jul 13, 2017 at 9:50 am
          This is the result when you give more power to selfish, unworthy, undeserving people... Complete beaurocracy is full of them including the minister of defence himself...
          Reply
          1. H
            H.Balakrishnan
            Jul 13, 2017 at 7:39 am
            Sir, A well known author and commentator on National Security, Geo - Politics, Strategy et al had written in the media back in 2015 : " Modi could have taken the most radical measures to remake the government, overturn the system, and build anew, but he didn’t. He played safe and has achieved little. Not only has there been no organisational overhaul, but there has also been no evidence of rewriting of the “rules of business” within the government or streamlining of its functioning. The irony is, as one of Modi’s ministers confided to me, instead of imposing himself on the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy has imposed itself on Modi, imprinting its views, values, and methods on a prime minister who was expected to show apparatchiks their place. So, it is the taming of Modi by the babus that is at the heart of why things are going wrong". The Rules of Business for Central Govt. still states that the Defence Secretary, an IAS generalist, is responsible for the Defence of India !! Jai Ho !
            Reply
            1. A
              Abraham Mandhra
              Jul 13, 2017 at 7:00 am
              The change will not effect Aft's function
              Reply
              1. S
                Saibaba Thadiboyina
                Jul 12, 2017 at 10:01 pm
                Mr. Jeitley, with his legal background, and being only a temporary in charge of the Ministry of Defence, is playing with the defence forces to avenge his defeat in the elections from Amritsar. He is under the impression that defence personnel, both serving and retired were responsible for his defeat. Whatever the present BJP government may be doing good, going by the experience of the previous governments, some of the mistakes and b ers committed by them will haunt them for a long time to come. If Mr. Modi does not interfere and check this trend of anti-defence forces at ude, all their good performance will be washed away and this country will be in trouble. It should be remembered that this country can only be saved by the defence forces, and they are being made non-effective by a few mischievous people. It is not the Defence Scretary who is going fight a war, this bureaucracy and their mentor will disappear after having created a mess for the country.
                Reply
                1. S
                  Shiv Singh
                  Jul 12, 2017 at 9:23 pm
                  The new changes make AFT toothless!
                  Reply
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