15 September 2011 Vijay Mohan Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 15
The Armed Forces Tribunal will get more teeth as it is expected to be armed with powers of contempt. This would give the Tribunal the much-needed authority to get its judgments and orders implemented by the executing agencies.
At present, the tribunal does not have the powers of civil contempt, under which it can initiate action like the High Court against erring parties if its directives are not implemented. This was perceived as a serious handicap in its functioning. Tribunal’s chairman Justice AK Mathur had, during a visit to Chandigarh some time ago, termed the tribunal as a “toothless” body as a large number of its orders were not being implemented by the defence establishments. Similar views were also expressed recently by Justice Ghanshyam Prashad, a senior judicial member of the Chandigarh Bench.
Sources revealed that the proposal to empower the tribunal with contempt powers has already been approved by the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Ministry of Law has given its opinion and recommendations on it. The file is now reportedly back with the Ministry of Defence and would be sent to the Cabinet after being cleared by the Defence Minister.
While the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 conferred powers of criminal contempt, where action can be initiated against anyone for misconduct, obstructing the functioning of the tribunal or showing disrespect to the bench, the provisions relating to civil contempt are ambiguous.
Earlier this year, a judgment of the Kerala High Court, while interpreting the provisions of the Act, brought out that the tribunal has full powers to initiate contempt proceedings if its orders are not implemented. Sources said there is also a proposal to increase the upper age limit for the tribunal’s judicial members.
The tribunal’s bench comprises a judicial member, who should have been a judge of the High Court, and an administrative member, who should have served in the rank of Major General and equivalent for at least three years.
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