Days After SC Rebuke, Centre Clears Appointments of 6 to Armed Forces Tribunal

The moves comes after the Supreme Court said the Centre was "emasculating the tribunals by not appointing members."

New Delhi: The Union government on September 7 cleared the appointments of six members to the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), Bar and Bench reported.

The appointments have been made after a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court slammed government inaction on the matter on September 6. 

Also read: SC Raps Centre for Continued Failure to Make Appointments to Tribunals

The bench of Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao had come down hard on the government, noting that it was “emasculating the tribunals by not appointing members.”

During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud had categorically mentioned the AFT while discussing how the lag in appointments, despite recommendations being made by the top court, was affecting the functioning of several tribunals across the country.

The new appointments are:

  1. Justice Bala Krishna Narayana
  2. Justice Shashi Kant Gupta
  3. Justice Rajiv Narain Raina
  4. Justice K. Harilal
  5. Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary
  6. Justice Anjana Mishra

In accordance with the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, the tenures of the six new appointees have been fixed at four years or until they reach a maximum age of 67 years.

On September 6, the Supreme Court bench had been hearing a plea by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh which challenged the inclusion of several sections in the Act which had earlier been struck down by the apex court in the case of Madras Bar Association versus the Union of India. 

The bench had come down heavily on the Act for including these provisions and Section 5 of the Act, which fixes the tenure of tribunal members at four years, was one of the provisions that had earlier been struck down. The court had remarked that it could not keep on passing judgements if Parliament continues to overturn them.

Despite having 17 benches in 11 locations across the country, the AFT is currently operating with only four benches in three cities; two in Delhi and one each in Chandigarh and Lucknow, as reported by the ThePrint.

The Armed Forces Act, 1958, which governs the functioning of the AFT, lays down that an AFT bench must consist of one judicial member and administrative or expert member. Such a bench can only function when this quorum is complete.

Pendency of cases with the AFT is high with 19,000 cases awaiting adjudication.