A Supreme Court bench of Justices Chandrachud and Surya Kant today invoked inherent powers of court under Article 142 of the constitution to direct the existing members of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) to continue beyond their tenure. The instant order was passed in the light of vacancies in the CAT.
The above transpired in a case filed by Central Administrative Tribunal (Principal Bench) Bar Association seeking directions of the court to stay retirement of all the existing Judicial/Administrative members till all the vacancies that arose from 2019-22 are filled up.
When the matter came up for hearing today Balbir Singh, Additional Solicitor General of India, informed the bench that a counter affidavit has been filed. Justice Chandrachud remarked that out of the 69 positions, only 29 have been filled up and 41 are still vacant.
The ASG informed the court that the Union has issued notifications and received applications for the 34 positions that were vacant upto December 31, 2021. The ASG also informed the court that the search cum selection committee is in the final stage in the process. The ASG further informed the court that these vacancies will be filled up by the end of July.
The court on hearing the submissions of the parties noted that the counter filed by the Union of India indicates that besides the vacancy in the post of chairperson in CAT, out of a sanctioned strength of 69 judges only 29 are in position inclusive of the chairperson.
The court noted the submissions of the petitioner that the present strength of the judges is 27 and not 29. The bench in its order recorded that further vacancies are due to occur on 17th June and 30th June, thereafter on 23 August, 3rd September, 14 September, 29th September and 2nd November, 2022 respectively.
It was noted that the contents of the counter indicate that benches which have vacancies have been functioning through physical/virtual by joining members from other benches. The bench further noted that most benches of CAT have substantial vacancies, even the constitution of a regular bench would be a difficult exercise.
In the light of the above the bench held that since vacancies would impinge upon right to access justice it feels appropriate to use Article 142 to direct that pending further orders of the court incumbent members shall continue to function even after completion of tenure subject to their consent and availability to act as judges. The bench made it clear that this arrangement is made till the next date of listing.
The matter will now come up for hearing on July 26, 2022.
Case title: Central Administrative Tribunal (Principal Bench) Bar Association Vs Union of India
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