THE CENTRAL government has appointed Abhay Bhardwaj, who was the defence lawyer in 2002 Gulberg Society massacre case, as a member of the search-cum-selection committee for selecting presiding officers of Central Government Industrial Tribunals (CGIT). The appointment of Bhardwaj comes close on the heels of his appointment as a part-time member of the Law Commission of India last year.
A January 10 notification of the Ministry of Labour and Employment stated that the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), which is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprises senior ministers of his cabinet, had approved the composition of the search-cum-selection committee.
According to the notification, Justice (retired) L Narasimha Reddy, the former chief justice of Patna High Court, is the chairman of the committee. Bhardwaj has been appointed as one of the two expert members. The other expert member of the five-member committee is Snehlata Srivastava, a retired IAS officer who had served as secretary in the Department of Justice of the Central government. Incumbent secretaries of the Ministry of Labour and Employment and Legislative Department are the other two members.
These tribunals also adjudicate matters related to grievances of employees of public sector units and nationalised banks. In the recently concluded Assembly elections, Bhardwaj was a proposer of Rupani’s candidature when he filed his nomination from Rajkot (West). Bhardwaj is also an RSS swayamsevak and was associated with the outfit’s student wing, ABVP, during his student days. His younger brother, Nitin, is a BJP corporator in the Rajkot Municipal Corporation.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bhardwaj (63) credited Prime Minister Modi for his appointment. “This is a decision by the Prime Minister to make real stakeholders a part of the process of selecting presiding officers.”
Bhardwaj, who has been practising law in Gujarat High Court and lower courts for almost four decades with expertise in criminal law, denied that conflict of interest could arise out of his appointment on a panel for selecting quasi-judicial officers. “I have been appointed on the panel as an expert, and not as a lawyer. While I concede that I am a practising lawyer, I assure the nation that I shall not appear before the presiding officers selected by the committee I am part of.” Presiding officers to these tribunals are of the rank of district judges.
Bhardwaj said that to ensure transparency in the selection process, he would propose to the committee to seek the opinion of local Bar association where the candidate has served, obtaining a confidential report of the candidate from concerned high court, do an independent assessment of applicants and seek opinion of police and intelligence
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