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Kerala High Court directs State to furnish details of step taken to initiate selection process in Administrative tribunal

The Kerala High Court has directed the State of Kerala to furnish details of the steps taken to initiate selection process in the Kerala Administrative Tribunal.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Murali Purushothaman heard a petition seeking the following reliefs:- 
“i. Issue a Writ of Mandamus or such other Writ, Order or direction directing the Respondents Nos: 1 to 6 to take steps to fill up the fill vacancies that are due to arise in the Kerala Administrative Tribunal within a time limit to be specified by this Hon’ble Court in accordance with Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021 and the Tribunal (Conditions of Service) Rules, 2021. 
ii. Issue a Writ of Mandamus or such other Writ, Order or direction directing the Respondents to make alternate arrangements to ensure that the work of the Kerala Administrative Tribunal is not adversely affected.”

The petitioner has submitted that the Kerala Administrative Tribunal is one of the busiest State Administrative Tribunals in the country with large pendency of cases. In such circumstances, the loss of Bench consisting of one Judicial and one Administrative Member from 30.04.2023 onwards will put a heavy burden on the functioning of the tribunal and will increase the pendency of cases. Despite knowing very well this situation and the consequences, the respondents have not taken any steps to fill the vacancy that will arise after April 2023.
The Petitioner has further submitted that no action has been taken by the respondents to fill up the vacancy of Mr. Rajesh Dewan, the 8th respondent, that will arise after 30.04.2023, in accordance with the provisions of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, and the Tribunal (Conditions of Service) Rules, 2021. Till date, neither the Committee has been constituted nor the circular issued as prescribed under the Rules. Thus, even if the respondents now start to take measures to fill the vacancy, it will take inordinate time.
On the basis of the instructions, P. Gopal, counsel appearing for the Kerala Administrative Tribunal, (7th respondent), submitted that a letter dated 18.01.2023 has been already sent to the Chief Secretary, Government Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram, to take urgent steps to convene a Search-cum-Selection Committee as per Section 3(3) of the Tribunal Reforms Act, 2021, in filling up the anticipated vacancy of one of the Hon’ble Members of the Kerala Administrative Tribunal. Submission of the learned counsel appearing for the Kerala Administrative Tribunal is placed on record.
From the material on record the Bench noted that  one of the  Members of the tribunal will demit office on attaining the age of 65 years on 08.04.2023. Tribunal has informed the Bench  the need to constitute a Searchcum-Selection Committee as per the statutory provisions.
Considering the number of cases pending on the file of the tribunal, the High Court is of the view that a committee has to be constituted, as expeditiously as possible.
“In that view of the matter, State of Kerala, represented by the Chief Secretary, Government Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram, and the Secretary, Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department, Thiruvananthapuram, respondents 3 and 4, are directed to furnish the details of the steps taken to initiate the selection process, pursuant to the letter dated 18.01.2023 of the Registrar, Kerala Administrative  Tribunal, addressed to the Chief Secretary, Government Secretariat, Thiruvananthapuram. Post on 29.03.2023”, the order reads.

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