Committee recommends amendments to AFT Act

In its report to parliament on Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Defence said that the defence ministry needs to amend the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.

The committee said in the report that defence ministry has felt the need to amend the Act to provide the tribunal with stability and confer powers of civil contempt, jurisdiction and authority in respect of civil contempt as a high court.

The standing committee backed the proposal in the Armed Forces Tribunal (Amendment) Bill to increase the term of office of the tribunal's chairperson and has asked the ministry to change provisions for giving civil contempt powers to the tribunal
for serving and retired defence personnel.

The report on “The Armed Forces Tribunal (Amendment) Bill, 2012,” said that views of all major stakeholders were in favour of increasing tenure of chairperson or member from four to five years and raising the age of judicial members from 65 to 67 years.

On the proposal to give civil contempt powers to the tribunal, the committee said “dichotomous views” had been expressed by major stakeholders.

“The committee is of the view that if unfettered civil contempt powers are bestowed on AFTs (Armed Forces Tribunal), the discipline would be compromised to a great extent," the report said.

“Hence, the committee is inclined to give civil contempt powers to AFTs with regard to the cases of retired defence personnel but conferment of such powers with regard to serving defence personnel is not acceptable till the justice delivery system through AFTs is stabilised,” the committee said. The committee said no serving defence officer should be made to appear before the tribunal for civil contempt.

It asked the armed forces to develop a strong grievance redress system. The committee recommend that civil contempt powers proposed to be given to the tribunal shall be applicable to defence ministry and all other civilian organisations apart from retired defence personnel.

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