Friday, November 4, 2011

Armed Forces Tribunal: Legal Headwind

The Armed Forces Tribunal, which came into being in August 2009, provides for adjudication of disputes and complaints about service related matters covering all three branches of the military, including hearing appeals arising out of orders, findings and sentences of courts martial. The AFT has original jurisdiction in service matters and appellate jurisdiction in court martial matters. All cases pending before the High Courts were transferred to the AFT. Its each bench comprises a judicial member, who should have served as a judge of the high court and an administrative member who should have served at a position of major general or equivalent or above. This allows the bench to draw upon legal as well as service expertise.

The biggest drawbacks in the AFT Act is that it the Tribunal does not have the powers of initiating civil contempt, implying that it has no means of ensuring that its orders are implemented by the party or organisation concerned. Further, a recent order by the Delhi High Court that appeals against AFT orders would lie with the High Court and not the Supreme Court as mentioned in the Act, has kicked-up a legal debate. Some say that the purpose of the AFT was to reduce the burden of the High Courts and ensure speedy disposal of cases. Some are of the opinion that if the cases go back to the high court, the purpose of the AFT is negated and things would be back to square one. — TNS
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