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Centre emasculating tribunals by not making appointments & testing patience, says SC

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New Delhi:  The Supreme Court Monday said the Centre was “emasculating” tribunals by not appointing official to the quasi-judicial bodies which are facing severe crunch of presiding officers as well as judicial and technical members and sought action on the matter by September 13.

Asserting that it did not want any confrontation with the government, a special bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said it wanted the Centre to make some appointments to the tribunals facing huge vacancies.

There are around 250 posts lying vacant at various key tribunals and appellate tribunals such as NCLT, DRT, TDSAT andT.

“You are emasculating the tribunals by not making the appointments,” said the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao.

The court took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, and adjourned the hearing on a batch of pleas pertaining to the vacancies at the tribunals and a new law related to them for further hearing on September 13 saying, ”We hope the appointments will be made by then”.

“It is clear that you do not want to respect the judgments of this court. Now, we have the option to stay the Tribunal Reforms Act or close down the tribunals or we ourselves appoint the people or the next option is to initiate the contempt of courts proceedings..,” the bench said.

“We do not want confrontation with the government and we are happy with the way the nine Supreme Court judges were appointed. The entire legal fraternity appreciated this…these tribunals are collapsing with no members or chairperson. Tell us about your alternative plans,” it observed.

Mehta said the government does not want any confrontation either and sought time on the grounds that Attorney General K K Venugopal, who has been assisting the bench in these matters, has been facing some personal difficulties.

The top court also issued notices on several fresh pleas including the one filed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh challenging the Constitutional validity of various provisions of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, which was  passed during the recent Monsoon Session of Parliament and received Presidential assent on August 13.

Ramesh said he has filed the petition in public interest assailing the proviso to Section 3(1) along with Sections 3(7), 5 and 7(1) of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 as being ultra-vires Articles 14, 21 and 50 of the Constitution.

The top court on August 16 had termed “serious” the passage of Bill on tribunals with the provisions, struck down earlier, without any debate in Parliament.

The court had then granted 10 days to the Centre to make appointments to the tribunals.

The bench had given details of pending vacancies in 15 quasi-judicial bodies such as Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs), DRAT, Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and National Companies Law Appellate Tribunal or NCLAT.

There are 19 vacant positions of presiding officers or the chairman in these tribunals, besides 110 and 111 posts of judicial and technical members respectively lying vacant, the bench had said.

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