President to launch Armed Forces Tribunal Saturday


New Delhi : President Pratibha Patil will Saturday inaugurate the Armed Forces Tribunal, providing a judicial forum to about 2.5 million armed forces personnel and ex-servicemen to redress their grievances, thus lessening the burden on various courts.

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“The president will inaugurate the tribunal tomorrow. Aggrieved armed forces personnel will now be able to appeal against sentences handed down by the court-martial. The tribunal will also have powers to grant bail to any person in military custody,” a defence ministry official here Friday.

The tribunal will be functional once the government issues the notification in this regard.

Set up by an act of parliament in December 2007, the tribunal will have its principal bench in New Delhi and eight regional benches across the country. It will have 15 courts in all — three each in New Delhi, Chandigarh and Lucknow and one each in Jaipur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai and Kochi.

The tribunal will provide a judicial forum for redressal of grievances of about 1.3 million strong armed forces personnel and another 1.2 million ex-servicemen. At present about 9,800 such cases are pending before various courts across the country, most of them with the high courts.

“The tribunal will not only result in speedy and affordable justice to the men in uniform but also save the armed forces’ resources in terms of manpower, material and time. The decisions of the tribunal can be challenged only in the Supreme Court,” said the official.

The tribunal’s chairperson will be a retired or serving judge of the Supreme Court or chief justice of a high court.

Justice A.K. Mathur, former judge of the Supreme Court, has been appointed the tribunal’s first chairperson and has assumed charge Sep 1, 2008.

Besides, each court will have a judicial member and an administrative member.

The judicial member must be, or have been, a judge of a high court while the administrative member would be officers of the rank of major general or equivalent in either of the three services or an officer not lower than the rank of a brigadier or equivalent who has rendered not less than one year of service as the judge advocate general of the army, navy or air force.

The government has already appointed eight judicial members and 15 administrative members, while seven judicial members are yet to be named.