The Punjab and Haryana High Court has put its stamp on the ability of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) to order arrest and attachment to ensure compliance of its orders.
In proceedings held on Monday, the Court accepted the response of the Union of India that under Rule 25 of the Armed Forces Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 2008, the AFT could take recourse to the provisions under Order XXI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Arun Palli said:
We may notice that the petitioner itself has extracted Rule 25 of the Armed Forces Tribunal (Procedure) Rules, 2008 which reads as under:-
“Powers of the Tribunal with regard to certain orders and directions:-
Nothing in these Rules shall be deemed to limit or otherwise affect the inherent powers of the Tribunal to make such orders or give such directions as may be necessary or expedient to give effect to its orders or to prevent abuse of its process or to secure the ends of justice.”
The aforesaid aspect has been elucidated in the written statement filed by the Union of India to the effect that in doing so the Tribunal can even adopt any of the recourses, ordinarily observed in the Civil Court in executing its decrees under Order XXI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
Among other provisions, Order XXI allows for the arrest of an individual against whom a decree or judgment lies, or for the attachment of his or her property.
With the AFTs typically hearing cases of appeals against court martial for criminal offences or challenges for administrative aspects, it would not be infeasible for the tribunals to use the provisions of Order XXI against even government officials who show disinterest or laxity in following their orders.
Litigants have often complained about non-compliance with orders of the tribunals that go against the government.
Further, since the Union has averred in the above proceeding accepting the applicability of Order XXI in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, this provision would be available for application to all nine benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal.
Major Navdeep Singh, who filed the above petition, made the case that that though there was a provision in the AFT Act for execution of orders passed by the AFT, no rules were notified defining the procedure.
The petitioner had sought directions to the Central Government to either notify rules defining such procedure or to follow the procedure prescribed under CPC for execution of orders by a civil court.
“The problem remains, that as on date, many orders passed by the AFT are simply ignored by the Defense Ministry which plainly states that the said decisions are against ‘govt policy’. There is no power of civil contempt with the Tribunal, and even no procedure is prescribed for execution of orders,” said Singh.