The Supreme Court’s three-judge bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta, and S. Ravindra Bhat on Monday asked the Centre to expedite the appointment of 4 judicial members to the Railway Claims Tribunal, without who the functioning of the tribunal has come to standstill. The tribunal now comprises only a chairman and 17 technical members. There are no judicial members at present.
Rule 3 of the Railway Claims Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 1989 (as amended in 2019) provides for a total of 23 benches spread over 20 separate geographical locations.
The court was hearing the matter of the Bar Association, Railway Claims Tribunal, which filed a writ petition under Article 32 of Constitution, seeking appointment of judicial members of the Tribunal expeditiously.
The petitioner told the bench that even though the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) approved the proposal for appointment of four judicial members to the Tribunal and sent a letter on October 21, 2020 to that effect, the four have not been appointed. The Attorney General of India had submitted that the order in Roger Mathew has clarified that the tenure of the chairperson and members would be for five years, but the ordinance states only 4 years.
The bench asked the ASG to make the appointments right now. The bench said that the tenure can be finalized, subject to the outcome of writ petition of Madras Bar Association v UOI. AG K.K. Venugopal submitted the Bench to pass order as the court may deem fit.
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The Supreme Court deferred the matter for May 31, holding that “the appointment of 4 judicial members as proposed on 21.10.2020 by ACC shall be made at the earliest… “The sanctioned strength of the Tribunal comprises of 1 chairman, 2 vice-chairmen and 20 Judicial Members. Apart from that, 2 Vice Chairman (Technical) and 21 Technical Members are also sanctioned. No judicial members appointed at present. Only 17 Technical Members are present” – Bar association (RCT) submits.