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SC rein on tribunal posts

New Delhi, Jan. 30: The Supreme Court has ruled that chairmen, vice-chairmen (judicial and administrative) and members of public services tribunals have to be appointed “in consultation with the chief justice of the high court” concerned, partially curtailing the freedom of state governments in the appointments.

A division bench of Chief Justice V.N. Khare and Justice Ashok Bhan, which gave the ruling, however, clarified that the “power of appointments with the state governments has been retained but the same has to be exercised in consultation with the chief justice of the high court”.

The apex court said state legislatures were competent to enact provisions of the Tribunals Act, but these could not be in contravention of Articles 14 and 16 “or any other provisions of the Constitution”.

Article 14 guarantees “equality before law” to all citizens and 16 guarantees “equality of opportunity in matters of public employment”.

The ruling has come on a petition by the Public Services Tribunals Bar Association, challenging an amendment to the UP Public Services Tribunal Act, which contended that chairmen, vice-chairmen and members of the tribunals could not be appointed without the consultation of the chief justice.

The court upheld this contention. “It is also directed that in future all appointments to the tribunals be made only after effective consultation with the chief justice of the state,” it said.

The apex court said the amendments that a state government might bring in the Public Services Tribunals Act could not be against the basic structure of the Constitution. It also ruled that the provisions enacted by a state government should not arbitrary and, therefore, not violative of Articles 14, 16 or any other provisions of the Constitution.

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