The countrys first Armed Forces Tribunal,set up to exclusively provide expeditious and inexpensive justice to defence personnel,has come under attack from the 5,000-member Delhi High Court Bar Association for seriously compromising the powers of the higher judiciary.
The Armed Forces Tribunal Act,2007 and its various provisions seriously compromise the independence of the judiciary and judicial decision-making and truncates the basic right of appeal. It also seeks to do away with judicial review which is part of the basic structure of our Constitution, it said.
The tribunal is meant to reduce the burden on the high courts and the Supreme Court,where over 9,800 cases filed by armed forces personnel are pending. In August 2008,the Government appointed retired Supreme Court Justice Ashok Kumar Mathur as its first chairperson.
The lawyers body has sought an interim stay on the operationalisation of the law and the transfer of case files from the Delhi High Court to the tribunal. A Division Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Siddharth Mrithul has issued a notice to the Centre on the petition.
A separate tribunal to hear service grievances of defence personnel was considered necessary to decongest the flow of complaints to the service chiefs who would decide on them as per the procedure prescribed in the three armed forces statutes.
The Act is bad in law since the jurisdiction of the High Court cannot be excluded in the manner in which the Parliament has sought to do, the petition stated.