Report No. 215
6. The Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007
6.1 The Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007 (No. 55 of 2007) has recently reached the Statute Book. In all essential features, it has copied its precursor viz. the Administrative Tribunals Act 1985. The Supreme Court in Prithi Pal Singh v. UOI, AIR 1982 SC 1413, had emphasized the need of an independent appellate forum for the armed forces. The Law Commission of India in its 169th Report on 'Amendment of the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts' (1999) also recommended establishment of an Armed Forces Appellate Tribunal.
6.2 The Armed Forces Tribunal Bill 2005 was introduced in Parliament to provide for the adjudication or trial by Armed Forces Tribunal of disputes and complaints with respect to commission, appointments, enrolment and conditions of service in respect of persons subject to the Army Act 1950, the Navy Act 1957 and the Air Force Act 1950 and also to provide for appeals arising out of orders, findings or sentences of court-martial held under the said Acts and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
6.3 Chapter 5 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007 deals with appeal to the Supreme Court. Sub-section (1) of section 30 provides that an appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court against the final decision or order of the Tribunal (other than an order passed under section 19) within a period of 90 days. Section 30(1) is subject to the provisions of section 31.
It also provides that there shall be no appeal against an interlocutory order of the Tribunal and that as provided in sub-section (2) of section 30, an appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court as of right against any order or decision of the Tribunal in the exercise of its jurisdiction to punish for contempt which shall be filed within 60 days from the date of the order appealed against.
Section 31 clearly says that an appeal to the Supreme Court shall lie with the leave of the Tribunal and such leave shall not be granted unless it is certified by the Tribunal that a point of law of general public importance is involved in the decision, or it appears to the Supreme Court that the point is one which ought to be considered by that Court. Section 33 excludes the jurisdiction of civil courts in relation to service matters under this Act.
6.4 Section 6(1) of the 2007 Act provides that a person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Chairman unless he is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court and as per section 6(2) a person shall not be qualified for appointment as a Judicial Member unless he is or has been a Judge of a High Court. An Administrative Member will be drawn from the Forces, holding the rank of Major General/above or equivalent who have served at least three years in that rank and in case of Judge Advocate General at least one year, according to section 6(3).
6.5 Section 7 provides that the Chairperson and Members shall be appointed by the President with the consultation of the Chief Justice of India.
6.6 On the exclusion of jurisdiction of civil courts, section 33 reads:
"On and from the date from which any jurisdiction, powers and authority becomes exercisable by the Tribunal in relation to service matters under this Act, no Civil Court shall have, or be entitled to exercise, such jurisdiction, power or authority in relation to those service matters."
6.7 It may be mentioned here that as per article 136(2) of the Constitution, the provisions of article 136(1) pertaining to special leave to appeal by the Supreme Court are not applicable to any judgment, determination, sentence or order passed or made by any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces. Similarly, article 227(4) of the Constitution provides that nothing in article 227 shall be deemed to confer on a High Court powers of superintendence over any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.