The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the June 12, 2018 order by the Uttarakhand High Court directing to the Union government to establish a regional bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal in the state.
“Issue of permanent and circuit bench of a tribunal can't be a subject matter for adjudication before the High Court,” a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said, allowing an appeal by the Centre.
The Union government, represented by Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, pointed out that there were 220 petitions, pending before the regional bench at Lucknow, which would be adjudicated by the circuit bench in Nainital. It does not justify setting up a regional or permanent bench over there, it said.
Lalit Kumar, an ex-serviceman and advocate, who filed the petition before the high court, contended there were a large number of serving and retired personnel of armed forces from the state of Uttarakhand, which required that there should be a permanent bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal in the state.
The top court said the judicial forum cannot issue a direction for setting up a tribunal at a particular place.
The court, however, asked the Union government to ensure that the matter related to personnel from Uttarakhand were disposed of expeditiously.
The high court's division bench had in its judgement said considering the pendency of cases the central government already decided to notify the circuit bench at Nainital. “Therefore, it can be safely presumed that there is a requirement of the regional bench of Armed Forces Tribunal in Uttarakhand. Easy access of Justice is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution,” it said.