If a Person falls under the provisions of Section 14 of the AT Act then Tribunal is the Court of first instance: High Court of Delhi

The remedy to approach the Tribunal in service disputes with respect to employees who are amenable to its jurisdiction is not an alternative remedy but is the only remedy, the Tribunal being a Court of the first instance. Employees aggrieved by the decision of the Tribunal can certainly approach the respective High Court having territorial jurisdiction over the matter in its power of judicial review over the decisions of the Tribunal. This was held in A.K. SINGH v.  ARMED FORCES TRIBUNAL & ANR. [W.P.(C) 5245/2020 and CM No.18891/2020] in the High Court of Delhi by a single bench consisting of JUSTICE  JYOTI SINGH

The facts are that the petitioner is Retired from the Indian Army who had joined as an Assistant in Armed Forces Tribunal. He was subsequently appointed as Section Officer. The services of the Petitioner were later discontinued. The present petition has been filed challenging the action of the Respondents in discontinuing the service of the Petitioner.

The  Counsel for the respondent submitted a preliminary objection to the maintainability of the present petition on the ground that the remedy of the Petitioner lies before the Central Administrative Tribunal in the first instance. It was further contended that reading of Section 14(1) of AT Act clearly shows that the Tribunal has jurisdiction in relation to recruitment and matters concerning All India Service or any civil service of the Union.

The court made reference to the judgment of Apex court in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India & Ors., wherein it was observed that “that it was in the express terms of Article 323-A of the Constitution and was being enacted because a large number of cases relating to service matters were pending before various courts; it was expected that ―the setting up of such Administrative Tribunals to deal exclusively with service matters would go a long way in not only reducing the burden of the various courts and thereby giving them more time to deal with other cases expeditiously but would also provide to the persons covered by the Administrative Tribunals speedy relief in respect of their grievances‖.”.

The court also made reference to the judgment of Apex Court in  S.P. Sampath Kumar v. Union of India, wherein it was observed that “if Tribunals were established as substitutes of Courts, they must possess independence, security and it would be imperative to include members of judiciary as Presiding Officers / Members of the Tribunal. Pithily put, the argument was that firstly, jurisdiction of the High Court can never be questioned and secondly, plea of alternative remedy can only be raised by the Respondents, if the remedy is independent and effective”.

Considering the facts of the case and the legal precedents, the court observed that the post of Section Officer in AFT is a civil post, and comes under the purview of Section 14(1) of AT Act. Thus dismissing the writ, while stating that petition cannot be entertained, the petitioner will have to move to Tribunal.

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