Armed Force Tribunal beset by internal strife

The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), supposed to settle disputes between the three forces and their aggrieved personnel, is witnessing an internal battle of a different kind.

 A senior AFT panel counsel has written to the Union law ministry, seeking action over alleged cartelisation and “extra benevolence” showered on his four lawyer colleagues as they are getting a majority of cases to argue before the adjudicatory body.  Thirty advocates were taken on the AFT panel to argue cases on behalf of the Army, Air Force and Navy against litigation filed by their respective aggrieved personnel.   

Retired Wing Commdore V S Tomar, in a letter written on July 25 to the joint secretary and legal adviser to the Law Ministry, alleged that “the allocation of cases is being done in an arbitrary and partisan manner by Col R Balasubramiam, ASG. Several times he has been “requested to distribute cases” in a manner so that the litigations are effectively defended and the panel lawyers get experience in the process,” Tomar said in his letter.

He has also charged that “Col R Balasubramaniam has been extra benevolent towards the following lawyers for reasons best known to him;  (a) Ankur Chibber, (b) Anil Gautam, (c) S P Sharma and (d) Dr Ashwini Bhardwaj.” Additional Solicitor General Balasubramaniam said many of cases were given to some of the four lawyers before he joined.

“It is not true. These are internal bickerings. The department has complaints against Tomar for not producing results. I have given equal work to Tomar, Gautam and Ankur. Some of the cases were handed  to them by the litigation section of the Delhi HC,” Balasubramaniam told Deccan Herald.

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