The Punjab and Haryana High Court today ordered that the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) be shifted from the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Law. Taking stock of the legal position and earlier directions by the Supreme Court, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice AK Sikri and Justice RK Jain ruled: “Insofar as the Armed Forces Tribunal is concerned, there is hardly any issue that it be brought under the control of Department of Justice in the Ministry of Law and Justice. Mechanism for control over the Armed Forces Tribunal can be worked out by the Department of Justice. Accordingly, we issue a direction to this effect.”
Stating that the AFT Act does not specify as to which ministry should wield control over it, the Bench observed that tribunals in India have not achieved full independence. “The apex court has observed that unless a wholly independent agency of all such tribunals is set up, it is desirable that all such tribunals, as far as possible, be under a single nodal ministry, which will be in a position to oversee the working of these tribunals. For a number of reasons that ministry should appropriately be the Ministry of Law,” the Bench said.
- Currently, the AFT functions under the MoD, which is a respondent in all cases filed before the tribunal.
- The judgment, according to legal experts, would go a long way in establishing the independence of judicial functioning through separation of the Judiciary from the Executive.
- A PIL filed by Navdeep Singh, a lawyer, had pointed out that the SC had already held that tribunals could not be made dependent on the sponsoring or parent ministries and to ensure their independence they could only be supervised by the Law Ministry
- (Source-The Tribune)