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Appeal tribunal for armed forces
- New facility aimed at keeping disputes out of civil courts
Anjali Gupta: Review blow

New Delhi, Dec. 20: The Centre has decided to give armed services personnel the right to appeal to a special tribunal against court martials and unfair decisions on promotions.

The decision to set up the Armed Forces Tribunal is also an effort to keep disputes in the military services from spilling over into civil courts ' such as the case of air force officer Anjali Gupta who today sought to appeal to Delhi High Court against a court-martial verdict that has recommended that she be cashiered.

Nearly 7,400 cases of armed forces personnel are pending in civil courts.

The Armed Forces Tribunal Bill 2005, tabled in Parliament today, has laid down the mechanism for filing an appeal.

“The purpose of the tribunal is to provide armed forces personnel right of appeal against court-martial verdicts and also appeal on matters of service conditions and seniority but not in the matter of postings,” explained a source.

The bill says the tribunal will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a retired chief justice of a high court. It will have a judicial member and an administrative member.

The administrative member will have to be of a rank equivalent to major general or above. The tribunal will be recognised as a tri-service organisation.

If a serving major general or equivalent officer is seconded to the tribunal, the person will have to demit office.

The bill says an appellant will have to exhaust the existing system of redress (court martial) before going to the tribunal.

The principal bench of the tribunal will be in Delhi but there will be subsidiary benches in cities to be identified later.

The chairperson of the tribunal will be appointed by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The other members will be appointed by the government in consultation with the chairperson.

Delhi High Court today disposed of a review petition filed by Anjali on the ground that the case did not fall in its jurisdiction. As the court martial was held in Bangalore, it is up to Karnataka High Court to take a decision, it said.

The air force told the court that it would not initiate further action against Anjali until the court-martial order was confirmed by the air chief.

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