What a relief it is to know that now the aggrieved officers and men of the Armed Forces and Ex-Servicemen will not have to knock at the doors of different High Courts to get their grievances redressed. As of now as many as 9800 cases are of serving defence personnel (including some retired personnel) are pending disposal in different High Courts of the country. This factor of indecision and delay has been affecting the morale of officers and men which is detrimental to defence of the country. With a view to ameliorate this hardship, the Ministry of defence brought a bill before the Parliament to establish an Armed Forces Tribunal and it became an Act of Parliament in December 2007.
Smt Pratibha Devisingh Patil, President of India has kindly agreed to inaugurate the Tribunal on saturday, 8 August 09 in New Delhi. The President is also the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. She was concerned about the rising litigation involving serving and retired Defence personnel in civil courts. Now the situation will undergo a sea change and it will be a morale raising factor as well as a force multiplier in a war or war-like situation.
The Armed Forces Tribunal will have the authority to hear appeals preferred against the order of Military Courts Martial. Should a defence personnel be in military custody, the Armed Forces Tribunal will have the authority to grant bail.
The Principal Bench of the Tribunal will be located in New Delhi and there will be eight regional benches. In all 15 Courts will be established - three each in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow; and one each in Jaipur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai and Kochi. The Tribunal is expected to give speedy justice to aggrieved personnel among officers and men of the 1.3 million strong armed forces and 1.2 million ex-servicemen.
The Chair person of the Tribunal will be a serving or a retired judge of the Supreme Court. presently Justice Ashok Kumar Mathur, a former judge of the supreme Court is holding office of the Chairman of the Armed Forces tribunal. Each court will have ajudicial member - aserving or a retired judge of a High Court and an administrative member who will be a retired Major general or an officer of equivalent rank from the other two services.
It is hoped that the tribunal will start functioning the moment Government of India issues a notification to that effect. Indeed hopes of all concerned have soared high.