Don’t be so apprehensive about disposal of service cases: CAT chairman to J&K HC chief justice

New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court need not be so apprehensive about the disposal of cases by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), its chairman L Narasimha Reddy said on Saturday.

Refuting the claims made by Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Gita Mittal, in a letter written to the Centre, over the tribunal’s ability to handle service matters of the employees, Reddy said the tribunal has recorded the disposal rate of 104 per cent in the past few months.

Reddy said the content of the letter — which has not been received by Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh — appeared in the print and electronic media.

The establishment of benches at various places and to ensure disposal of the cases is the responsibility of the tribunal and the high court need not be so apprehensive. Wherever necessary, the guidance and help of the high court would certainly be taken, the CAT chairman said.

Referring to a media report, he said many statements in the news item were indeed not called for and at any rate, were not a matter of concern for the high court .

The assertions by Mittal and Reddy come in the backdrop of an order issued by the central government on April 29, that mentioned that the CAT’s Chandigarh bench will have jurisdiction of the benches in states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab and union territories of Chandigarh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir has been reorganised into two union territories Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh with effect from October 31, 2019. Its employees, who were earlier under the state government’s jurisdiction, are now under the ambit of the CAT.

If 31,000 service matters were pending before the High Court and the litigants were waiting for several years, it is not due to any lapse on the part of the tribunal, the CAT chairman said.

Reddy said, one cannot expect full-fledged functioning of the benches of the tribunal straight away particularly when the cases are yet to be transferred from the High Court.

I may mention that the pendency of the cases in the circuit benches at Srinagar and Jammu before the state was re-organised was just 140, he said.

After re-organisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the request for accommodation was considered and offer of the places was also made, said Reddy, a former Chief Justice of the Patna High Court.

Before any tangible steps could be taken, the COVID-19 lockdown has occurred, he said.

Once the accommodation is made available and cases are transferred from the High Court, it would be the responsibility of the tribunal to take care of the situation, Reddy said.

The tribunal, that adjudicates central government employees service matters, has 33 benches across the country and depending on the pendency before each bench and the need to establish benches at various places, adjustments are taking place from time to time, the CAT chairman said.

Reddy said that though the appointment of members was delayed on account of the pendency of a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court, the tribunal recorded the disposal rate of 104% in the past few months.

Citing the infrastructure-related deficiencies in the erstwhile state, the CAT chairman said he had conducted one of the hearings last year along with an administrative member at Srinagar and Jammu.

The hearing took place in a room of 8′ X 10′ size in a corner of the office of the Deputy Commissioner. Even a II class judicial magistrate court would not function in such premises, he said.

However, the situation in Jammu was slightly better, Reddy said.

Repeated requests made to the then state government for accommodation did not yield any positive result. All the same, yet the tribunal did not shirk from its responsibility, the CAT chairman said.

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