The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has got an exclusive bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal to adjudicate the recruitment and service matters of the government employees. The order has come after a month-long of uncertainty and potential a political slugfest. Here is a timeline of what happened.
Aug 5-6, 2019: Jammu and Kashmir Re-ogranised, bifurcated into Union Territories necessitating, among others, transfer of service matters from High Court to Central Administrative Tribunal
April 29, 2020: Centre issues Gazette notification reiterating jurisdiction of Chandigarh bench of CAT over Jammu and Kashmir. Move is resented by lawyers, employees and political parties
May 1: MoS for Perosonnel, Dr Jitendra Singh assures filing, hearing of all cases in Jammu, but no such orders are issued
May 6: A PIL is filed at Jammu and Kashmir High Court asking for permanent Benches of CAT in the UT.
May 14: J&K Chief Justice Gitta Mittal’s letter to Dr Jitendra Singh enumerating reasons for permanent Bench in J&K is reported in the press.
May 16: CAT chairman issues a response to Justice Mittal’s letter to Jitendra Singh taking exception to its ‘leak’ in media; says, CAT will ensure speedy disposal of cases.
May 19: High Court hears PIL filed on May 6. Counsels for the Centre and State assure the establishment of CAT Bench in Jammu and Kashmir
May 22: Supreme Court issues notice to Centre on a petition filed by an advocate seeking the establishment of CAT Bench in Jammu and Kashmir.
May 28: Notification issued by CAT Bench in Jammu with jurisdiction over Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh
Centre’s notification of April 29, 2020 keeping Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh under the jurisdiction of CAT bench based at Chandigarh had evoked strong reactions with lawyers, associations of employees and members of the civil society describing the arrangement as inconvenient and impractical.
It is also learnt that after consultations with the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory administration, the CAT authorities have taken over the possession of a building at the Wazarat Road in Jammu. This building near the office of Deputy Commissioner earlier housed the office of State Accountability Commission which was scrapped under the Jammu and Kashmir Re-organisation Act 2019.
The lawyers’ community is happy with the setting of the exclusive bench for Jammu and Kashmir but they have reservations about the location of its offices in Jammu. The building which housed SAC is not very spacious and public parking in its vicinity is a major issue. There are over 31,000 pending service matters which have been taken over by the CAT from Jammu and Kashmir High Court this month upon transition of the jurisdiction from latter to the former.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (7) of section 5 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 (13 of 1985), the Central Government hereby specifies Jammu and Srinagar as the places at which the benches of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) shall ordinarily sit for the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union territory of Ladakh,” read the notification issued by Rashmi Choudhary, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, this afternoon.
The 18th bench of the CAT – named Jammu Bench – would have jurisdiction over UTs of J&K and Ladakh.
Also mentioned in the notification: “Some amendments have been made in the notification of the Government of India in the erstwhile Ministry of Personnel and Training, Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and Pensions vide number G.S.R. 610(E), dated the 26th July 1985. As per amendments, the jurisdiction of the Chandigarh Bench of the CAT would be the State of Haryana, State of Himachal Pradesh, State of Punjab and UT of Chandigarh.”
It may be recalled that through a notification on April 29, 2020, the Centre had reiterated the jurisdiction of Chandigarh bench of CAT over Jammu and Kashmir. This was, however, resented by bodies of lawyers and political parties, including BJP, as they said that it would hamper access to justice for the employees of the UT, following which the Centre on May 1 clarified that no petitioner or lawyer would need to go to Chandigarh as such matters would be heard by the CAT bench in J&K itself.
The government also mentioned that CAT Chandigarh bench used to hold its sittings in J&K to dispose of service matters related to Central Government employees.
However, these clarifications and assurances were not taken on the face as stakeholders demanded clear establishment of benches at Jammu and Srinagar. A Public Interest Litigation was also filed before the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on May 6 while as a petitioner has also approached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, on May 22, issued notice to Centre on the petition.
Earlier, a controversy erupted when Chairman of the CAT rebutted point-wide a letter of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gitta Mittal written to the Union Minister of State Jitendra Singh for establishing of an administrative tribunal with multiple benches and permanent seats in Jammu and Srinagar.
Hours after the notification issued by Additional Secretary, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the Registrar General of CAT also issued a separate notification saying that necessary arrangement for posting of members and staff are made. “The Bench will become operational from 08.06.2020 at Wazarat Road Jammu. From that date onwards the filing of OAs, whether in the hard copy form or through online shall take place at Jammu Bench itself”.
Yet another or the CAT sent on deputation 20 officers from the Principal Bench at New Delhi and Chandigarh Bench to Jammu Bench to provide assistance to the Member in hearing of cases.