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40 of 69 CAT posts vacant, SC says members won’t ‘retire’ | India News

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NEW DELHI: Using its omnibus powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court on Friday, in a unprecedented step, ordered that existing judicial and administrative members of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) should keep working even after end of their tenures to keep the tribunal, crippled by 60% vacancies, functional.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Surya Kant said the Union government’s lethargy in filling the vacancies in posts of both judicial and administrative members has brought a very important tribunal to the brink of collapse.
The bench said CAT was created in 1985 to adjudicate service grievances of central government employees. It had started with a pendency of 13,500 cases, transferred from various HCs and subordinate courts, but the pendency has crossed over 50,000. To make matters worse, out of 69 sanctioned strength of members in 19 benches of CAT across India, only 29 are in place.
“CAT was assigned the work of the high courts relating to central government employees’ service disputes. If members are not available in CAT to constitute benches and take up petitions for hearing, what happens to access to justice of citizens? Should we order that the central government employees could henceforth move the HC with their petitions,” the bench asked.
Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general Balbir Singh said advertisement for filling 34 posts was issued in April and that the government hoped to finalise the names for appointment as judicial and administrative members by the end of July.
The Supreme Court said by the time the Centre fills up 34 posts, there would be more vacancies with tenures of more members coming to an end in August, September and November.
“Most CAT benches have substantial vacancies and constituting a bench has become so difficult that members from different places join together on virtual platforms to constitute benches and hear the petitions,” the bench said. “Since vacancies are impinging on the right to access to justice, we invoke the powers under Article 142 of the Constitution,” the bench said.





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