June 26, 2018
Case name: Lalit Kumar v. Union of India & Ors.
An intriguing issue pertaining to ease of access to justice and speedy justice has been highlighted in the instant case. The case revolves around the impending need of establishing Armed Forces Tribunal in the State of Uttarakhand.
Brief Facts of the case: The petitioner in the case has alleged that as there is no Armed Forces Tribunal in Uttarakhand, it is difficult for serving as well as retired ex-servicemen to have access to the Armed Forces Tribunal at Lucknow which is the Regional Bench having has jurisdiction over the States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh.
Section 4 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act provides that the Central Government shall establish the Armed Forces Tribunal to exercise the jurisdiction, powers and authority conferred on it. Further, Section 33 of the Act excludes jurisdiction of civil courts. It has been alleged that there is a low pendency of cases in Armed Forces Tribunal in Lucknow for the State of Uttarakhand as most of the litigants have waived/ sacrificed their legal rights as it is difficult for the serving armed forces personnel as well as ex-servicemen including widows and minors to approach the Armed Forces Tribunal Bench at Lucknow, taking into consideration the geographical and hilly terrain of the Uttarakhand State.
The High Court in the case took strong note of the Central Government’s power in such cases. The Court while directing establishment of Armed Forces Tribunal in the State within four months observed that:
- That the purpose of constituting Armed Forces Tribunal is to provide speedy justice to the armed forces personnel. The armed forces personnel cannot approach the civil courts including the high courts as per Section 33 of the Act .
- That the access to justice within a reasonable cost is the underlying principle of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007. If the Central Government is concerned about the expenditure incurred on the Circuit Bench, the plight of the armed forces personnel to go to far of Lucknow cannot be undermined. It is very difficult for the armed forces personnel and the ex-servicemen including widows and minors to espouse their grievance by going to Lucknow.
- That the Central Government is empowered, under sub-section (4) of Section 5 of the Act, to establish Benches by issuing a necessary Notification. Speedy justice is the fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
- That the sacrifices made by the armed forces personnel during the active war and in peace cannot be forgotten. It is the duty cast upon the society as a whole to ensure that their grievances are redressed immediately. The Central Government cannot deny issuing notification for establishment of Regional Bench of Armed Forces Tribunal in the State of Uttarakhand on the pretext of huge expenditure. It is the duty of the Central Government to provide speedy justice to its citizens more particularly to the ex-servicemen.
- That easy access of Justice is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The entire case can be accessed here.