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Delay in AFT shifting angers ex servicemen

They want the Armed Forces Tribunal to be shifted from Ministry of Defence to Ministry of Law.

SUMAN SHARMA  NEW DELHI | 6th Apr 2013

ormer servicemen have written to the President of India, the Defence Minister and other ministers asking them to shift the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) from under the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Law. The Supreme Court directed the government twice last year to shift the AFT. This year the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence (18th Report) endorsed the same. But the Central government referred the matter to a Group of Ministers (GoM), thus angering the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement. The AFT hears cases against the Ministry of Defence but is controlled by the same ministry, thus raising questions about the fairness of the judgements given.

IESM vice chairman, retired Major General Satbir Singh said in his letter, "AFT which has the Ministry of Defence as the first party in all litigation and is expected to pass directions against the same Ministry of Defence in all cases but is still placed under the control of the same ministry as far as all appointments, funds, infrastructure and rule making is concerned. The situation of AFT here is unique since all orders of the AFT are to be passed against the MoD which also happens to be the controlling parent and administrative ministry."

Besides President Pranab Mukherjee, the letter has also been sent to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Minister of Urban Development and Parliamentary Affairs Kamal Nath, Minister of Commerce and Info Tech Kapil Sibal, Minister of Human resources Development Pallam Raju, apart from other ministers and Opposition party leaders.

The IESM has also requested that AFT be given full-fledged powers to try contempt cases relating to civilians, which it does not have now.

All AFT members use MoD facilities, but are expected to pass orders against it. The AFT's funds are also sanctioned through the MoD. An RTI reply has revealed that the MoD funded foreign trips worth lakhs of rupees undertaken by AFT chairperson A.K. Mathur.

 
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