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Friday, July 4, 2008

Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) all set to be operational

If all goes well, this Independence Day may see the inauguration of the Principal Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) at Delhi. The notification for the formation of the AFT has already been issued. Under the authority of Section 5 (4) of the Act, the govt can establish benches at other places too.

The Tribunal shall consist of a Chairperson and other Administrative and Judicial Members. The Chairperson shall be a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court. High Court Judges would be qualified to be appointed as Judicial Members while Officers of the rank of Major General (or above) who have held the appointment of JAG in any of the services for atleast one year shall be eligible to be appointed as Administrative Members.

The AFT shall have power to deal with service matters of members of the armed forces. It shall also act as an Appellate body for Court Martials. Even NOK / Legal heirs of members of the armed forces would be able to approach the tribunal in certain circumstances.

Under Section 30 of the Act, an appeal from the orders of the AFT shall lie to the Supreme Court. The AFT has been provided extraordinary powers of Contempt by virtue of Section 19 vide which an imprisonment upto 3 years can be awarded.

While the legal community has welcomed the decision, the only apprehension is that officers who have in the past served in the JAG branch should not have ideally been incorporated to have a place on the bench of the Tribunal for the reason of having been an instrumentality of the Army while in service. Further it would be difficult to look for ‘Administrative Members’ who have served as JAG except for the JAG himself, the posts of such members thus being assured for retiring JsAG of the services. The basis of demand of jurists for a body such as the AFT was that there was no provision of an appeal under any of the Military Acts against punishments rendered by Court Martials.


Post facto note :- Refer Paragraph 2 of my blog above. It has now come to light that the Original AFT Act contained a stipulation that any officer who has held the rank of Major General or above for 3 years OR an officer who has held the appointment of JAG in the Army / Navy / Air Force for atleast 1 year shall be eligible for appointment as an ‘Administrative Member’. However mysteriously, when the final notification of the Act was issued, the word ‘OR’ was replaced by ‘AND’ thus implying that only former JsAG could be appointed and not other officers. This has now been brought to the notice of the Raksha Mantri who has not taken it very kindly and ordered the correction of this error. Interestingly, the original AFT Bill (which is available in this blogger’s possession) did not contain any mention of JAG and only stated that any officer who has held the rank of Major General or above for 3 years shall be eligible for appointment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Navdeep
u seem to be blighted by the blaze of the original bill and thus tyour anguish about JAG officers being brought on board.

If Article 217 authorises any sarkari babu(secy law/director Prosecution) etc to be made a judge of the High Court why cant a JAGger be one?
Secondly the original Bill underwent a sea change.It had JAG as JUDICIAL members.

Col Jagmohan (ex JAG offr) gave a presentation to the Parliamentary and ensured that JAG offrs are not made Judicial but adm member only.

Further, go thru UNI Report a few days ago that it intends to bring in an Ordinance to do away with the word 'AND' and insert 'OR".

But did u bother to check the following

does it draw its legal power and sustenance from the constitutio?

Does it have opening words like what we have in the CAT where it says it drwas power from Art 321 A, one intro by Rajiv Gandhi.

U miserably failed to apprise ur admirers abt the legality of keeping the High Court out.

there is much more to add to ur incompletee and disappointing piece on such an imp issue

ur admirer

anil chandra