The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s response on a plea challenging the validity of rules that gives the Defence Minister power to appoint, remove, enquire about and grant benefits to members of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).
The petitioner Navdeep Singh — founder member of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association, Chandigarh — has challenged the validity of the provisions of The Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017.
These Rules were framed under Sections 181 and 184 of the Finance Act, 2007.
A bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Dipak Misra and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud issued notice to the Ministry of Defence as counsel Aishwarya Bhati told the bench that the said rules were in breach of the apex court’s verdicts and interfered with the independence of the judicial bodies.
Counsel Bhati, representing petitioner Singh, later said that under the rules the Defence Secretary would be a member of the search-cum-selection committee for the appointment of the members of the AFT.
The rules also said that tribunals are to function under parent ministries.
Even for going on leave, the members of the AFT would have to seek the permission of the Defence Secretary, Bhati later said.
Singh sought a declaration that the rules under challenge relating to the AFT and Sections 181 and 184 of the Finance Act, 2007, are ultra vires of Article 14, contrary to the principle of separation of powers under Article 50 and also interfered with judicial independence.
Seeking a time-bound roadmap for the reform of all tribunals, the petitioner sought direction for the placement of all tribunals under the Ministry of Law and Justice and not under parent departments/ministries against which the said tribunals were to pass orders.