The Indian Armed Forces are the military forces of the Republic of India and consist of three services – The Indian Army, The Indian Navy, and The Indian Air Force. The members of these services are governed by The Army Act, 1950, The Navy Act, 1957 and The Air Force Act, 1950 respectively.
The One Hundred and Sixty Ninth report titled AMENDMENT OF THE ARMY, NAVY, AND AIR FORCE ACT, of the Fifteenth Law Commission of India, under the Chairmanship of Justice B.P Jeevan Reddy took up suo moto cognizance of the need to amend the Army Act, The Navy Act and The Airforce Act in view of the Honorable Supreme Court’s observations in the case of Lt. Col Prithi Pal Singh v. Union of India1 with respect to absence of the remedy of appeal against the orders of court martial and the absence of recording reasons by court martials in support of their decisions.
The report of the commission concluded that in order to overcome the deficiencies of the Army Act, Navy Act and Air Force Act, it is essential to,
“ provide an appropriate appellate forum to entertain appeals against the final orders passed by the court martials.” The report provided for setting up a three-member tribunal common to the Army, Navy and Air Force consisting of civilian members as well as members from the Armed Forces to adjudicate the disputes and complaints with respect to conditions of service of persons appointed to the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
The Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 came into force on 15th June 2008 and the Armed Forces Tribunal was inaugurated by the President of India on 8th August 2009.
BENCHES OF THE TRIBUNAL
The Tribunal has one Principal Bench at New Delhi and ten regional benches at Srinagar, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Lucknow, Jabalpur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai, Kochi. The regional benches at Chandigarh and Lucknow have three benches each while the remaining regional benches each have one bench.
COMPOSITION OF THE TRIBUNAL
Section 5 (1) of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 provides that the Tribunal shall consist of a Chairperson and such number of Administrative and Judicial members as the Central Government may deem fit.
Section 5 (2) of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 provides that each bench shall consist of one Administrative member and one Judicial Member.
The Chairperson and other members of the Tribunal hold office for a period of four years from the date on which they enter office.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR MEMBERSHIP OF THE TRIBUNAL
To be qualified for appointment as a Judicial Member, a person must be either a retired Supreme Court Judge or a retired Chief Justice of a High Court. [Section 6 (1)]
Administrative Members are retired members of the Armed Forces who are holding or have held the rank of Major General or above in the Army or an equivalent rank in the Navy or Air Force for a period of three years or more. Judge Advocate General (JAG), who have held the appointment for at least one year are also entitled to be appointed as an Administrative Member. [Section 6 (3)].
JURISDICTION OF THE TRIBUNAL
Section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 provides that from the date of its appointment, the Tribunal shall exercise all the powers, authority and jurisdiction which was exercisable by other courts with respect to service matters of persons subject to the Army Act, 1950, Navy Act 1957 and Air Force Act, 1950.
The tribunal is also empowered to reject an application if it is satisfied that the matter is not for adjudication by it. The reasons for the same must be recorded in writing.
Section 15 of the Act provides that the Tribunal is empowered to exercise power, authority and jurisdiction in relation to an appeal against the order of a court martial.
TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION OF THE TRIBUNAL
The Territorial jurisdiction of the Regional Benches flows from the administrative orders issued by the Government of India from time to time. At present the States and Bench – wise territorial jurisdiction is as under –
Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and U.T of Chandigarh
Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand
West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and U.T. of Andaman and Nicobar Islands
North East Region
Maharashtra and Gujarat
Kerala, Karnataka and Lakshadweep
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and U.T. of Pondicherry