In a welcome landmark decision, the Chennai Bench of the AFT has called upon the authorities to consider incorporation of procedural safeguards in naval rules in line with what is provided under army and air law thus meeting the requirements of principles of natural justice. Similar decisions were rendered in the past too.
The same was reported in ‘The Tribune’ recently and is reproduced hereunder :
Amend dismissal Rules, AFT tells Navy
Tribune News Service
In a significant ruling that could set into motion a process to amend certain provisions of the Navy Act, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has held that regulations pertaining to the powers of summary dismissal vested in naval authorities do not meet the ends of natural justice.
Unlike corresponding provisions in the Army Act and the Air Force Act, which bring out clearly the fundamental provision of providing an opportunity through examination of the witnesses and the right to cross-examination by the accused in the presences of an independent witness, the Tribunal observed that provisions of the Navy Act lack requisite inbuilt safeguards.
“It will be pertinent to draw the attention of the respondents (Navy Chief) to the peculiar situation, in which the personnel of the Navy are seeking redressal in High Courts and AFTs, due to the summary powers of dismissal vested in the Navy Act,” said the Tribunal’s bench, comprising Justice AC Arumugaperumal Adityan and Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman.
Disposing of a writ pursued by the widow of a sailor who was dismissed by a summary court martial for allegedly falsifying official documents, the Tribunal set aside the punishment and ruled out that her husband would be deemed to have retired from service and that she would be entitled to family pension from the date of her husband’s death. The Tribunal held the summary trial to be vitiated since it was against the principles of natural justice.
The sailor was dismissed from service in May 2000 and sentenced to 90 days rigorous imprisonment besides reduction in rank. He died in November 2010 during the pendency of the writ filed by him earlier. He had contended that he had not been given adequate opportunity to defend himself during his summary trial.
The Tribunal also directed the Navy Chief to consider incorporation of suitable measures to make the provisions of Regulations 27 and 29 of the Regulations for the Navy, Part -II (Statutory) to be in conformity with the safeguards as built into the corresponding provisions of the Air Force and the Army Acts, since the summary disposal powers of dismissal cannot be treated as an admonition.