Report No. 215
6.8 We may also beneficially record the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Armed Forces Tribunal Bill 2005, which reads thus:
"Statement of Objects and Reasons
The existing system of administration of justice in the Army and Air Force provides for submission of statutory complaints against grievances relating to service matters and pre and post confirmation petitions to various authorities against the findings and sentences of courts-martial. In Navy, an aggrieved person has a right to submit a complaint relating to service matters and has a right of audience before the Judge Advocate General in the Navy in regard to the finding and sentence of a court-martial before the same are finally put up to the Chief of the Naval Staff.
2. Having regard to the fact that a large number of cases relating to service matters of the members of the above-mentioned three armed forces of Union have been pending in the courts for a long time, the question of constituting an independent adjudicatory forum for the Defence personnel has been engaging the attention of the Central Government for quite some time.
In 1982, the Supreme Court in Prithi Pal Singh v. Union of India and others (AIR 1982 SC 1413) held that the absence of even one appeal with power to review evidence, legal formulation, conclusion and adequacy or otherwise of punishment in the laws relating to the armed forces was a distressing and glaring lacuna and urged the Government to take steps to provide for at least one judicial review in service matters. The Estimates Committee of the Parliament in their 19th Report presented to the Lok Sabha on 20th August, 1992 had desired that the Government should constitute an independent statutory Board or Tribunal for service personnel.
3. In view of the above, it is proposed to enact a new legislation by constituting an Armed Forces Tribunal for the adjudication of complaints and disputes regarding service matters and appeals arising out of the verdicts of the courtsmartial of the members of the three services (Army, Navy and Air Force) to provide for quicker and less expensive justice to the members of the said Armed Forces of the Union.
4. Establishment of an independent Armed Forces Tribunal will fortify the trust and confidence amongst members of the three services in the system of dispensation of justice in relation to their service matters.
5. The Bill seeks to provide a judicial appeal on points of law and facts against the verdicts of courts-martial which is a crying need of the day and lack of it has often been adversely commented upon by the Supreme Court. The Tribunal will oust the jurisdiction of all courts except the Supreme Court whereby resources of the Armed Forces in terms of manpower, material and time will be conserved besides resulting in expeditious disposal of the cases and reduction in the number of cases pending before various courts. Ultimately, it will result in speedy and less expensive dispensation of justice to the Members of the abovementioned three Armed Forces of the Union.
6. The Notes on clauses explain in detail the various provisions contained in the Bill.
7. The Bill seeks to achieve the above objectives.
The 15th December, 2005"
6.9 A careful perusal of the Statement of Objects and Reasons would clearly reveal that the Armed Forces Tribunal has been founded to provide for quicker and less expensive justice to the members of the said Armed Forces of the Union and that the establishment of an independent Armed Forces Tribunal will fortify the trust and confidence amongst the members of the three services in the system of dispensation of justice in relation to their service matters. Another important feature to be noted is that the Act seeks to provide for an appeal on points of law of general public importance against verdicts of the courts-martial, which is the crying need of the day and lack of it has often been adversely commented upon by the Supreme Court.
It is also specifically provided that the Tribunal will oust the jurisdiction of all courts except the Supreme Court, whereby resources of the Armed Forces in terms of manpower, material and time will be conserved besides resulting in expeditious disposal of the cases and reduction in the number of cases pending before various courts and that it ultimately will result in speedy and less expensive dispensation of justice to the members of the three Armed Forces of the Union.
6.10 It may be mentioned that the decisions rendered/recorded by the Tribunal constituted under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007 can only be challenged by way of Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court. When finality is possible to be suggested in service matters relating to Armed Forces, a differential treatment need not be continued to the Administrative Tribunal when it deals with issues of civil servants.
It would be possible to suitably incorporate an amendment in article 227(4) of the Constitution by including the Central Administrative Tribunal side by side with the Armed Forces Tribunal. As long as it is ensured that the Supreme Court continues to enjoy the appellate jurisdiction in respect of the orders passed by the Administrative Tribunal in original and appellate jurisdiction by way of intra-tribunal appeal, for imaginary or historical reasons, the dockets of the High Court need not be exploded by a barrage of writ petitions from the Administrative Tribunals.