The Supreme Court today paved the way for appointment of chairpersons, judicial and others members of all 19 tribunals including CAT and NGT that were stalled due to pendency of pleas challenging the 2017 Finance Act and the rules governing the panels.
The Finance Act and the Tribunal, Appellate and other Authorities (Qualifications, Experience and other conditions of Service of Members) Rules, which govern appointments, tenure, removal and other service conditions of chairpersons and members of tribunals, had been challenged on grounds including that they gave more powers to the executive and interfered with the judicial independence of the panels.
In an order, which virtually stayed the new law and the rules on tribunals, a bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said the appointments in tribunals like Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) would be made under the old rules with some modifications.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, consented to the suggestions mooted to make functional an interim arrangement to fill up posts of chairpersons, judicial, administrative and technical or expert members on all panels.
The bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said an interim search-cum-selection committee be set up during the pendency of the petitions to appoint judicial and administrative members in tribunals. The search panel would be headed by the CJI or his nominee.
The chairpersons of tribunals to which appointments will be made and two secretaries, nominated by the central government, would be the members of the committee.
"Appointment to the post of chairman (of tribunals) shall be made by nomination by the CJI," the suggestion, approved by the court, said.
"All appointments to be made pursuant to the selection made by the interim search-cum-selection committee shall abide by the conditions of service as per the old Acts and the Rules.
"A further direction to the effect that all selections made by the aforementioned interim selection committee and the consequential appointment of all the selectees as Chairman/Judicial/Administrative members shall be for a period as has been provided in the old Acts and the Rules," the court said.
It has now fixed for hearing the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Finance Act 2017 and the rules under it to regulate issue like appointment, tenure, removal and other service conditions of the presiding officers and members and of the tribunals after 12 weeks.
The top court had earlier said that the pending petitions should not come in the way of functioning of the tribunals which needed to be manned.
Earlier, it had asked the Centre and other stakeholders to sit together and decide on an "interim arrangement" to deal with appointments to be made in all the tribunals.
The bench was hearing pleas filed by petitioners, including Congress leader Jairam Ramesh and NGO 'Social Action for Forest and Environment', against the new Act and the rules, which they claimed infringed on the independence of tribunals.
The petitioners alleged that the new law would destroy independent functioning of tribunals as they give primacy to the executive in deciding the constitution, qualifications of members, their appointments and removal.
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