Armed Forces Tribunal wants contempt powers

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Ajit K Dubey

New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) With the Defence Ministryrefusing to reinstate a Muslim soldier acquitted of thecharges of being an ISI agent, the Armed Forces Tribunal hasasked the government to provide it with contempt powers to getits orders implemented.

It has also allowed the counsel of the soldier to filea petition in the Supreme Court so that proper directionscould be given to make the tribunal "functional andeffective".

The tribunal had last year quashed an Indian Armyorder against Naib Subedar Fayaz Khan where he was summarilycourt martialled from his post of religious teacher in 25Rajput Regiment on allegations that he had links with Islamicterror groups.

"This is an unfortunate matter as the order has notbeen complied with till this date. Notice has been issued anumber of times to all authorities including the DefenceSecretary but without any result.

"We feel that we are handicapped because we do nothave powers to issue a civil contempt to get the orders of thetribunal executed," its chairperson Justice A K Mathur saidwhile hearing Khan''s petition.

Expressing the tribunal''s "helplessness", he said, "Itis sad that the power of civil contempt for getting thetribunal''s order executed has not been given in the Act. Itmay be an error or omission or may be deliberate. But becauseof not having this power we cannot issue a civil contempt toget our orders executed."

Observing that lack of civil contempt power washampering the functioning of the tribunal, Justice Mathursaid, "The recommendation for necessary amendment in the Acthas already been sent to the Government a long time back.

"The orders are at the mercy of the authorities, ifthey wish they can execute and if they do not wish, they maynot. This is a serious thing which has been already taken upwith the government but without any result.

"We feel helpless that this tribunal cannot come tothe rescue of persons despite the orders passed by thetribunal. It is a very strange state of affairs and we aresorry to say that we cannot help the petitioner," he said.

Dismissing Khan''s plea in absence of contempt power,Justice Mathur allowed his counsel Maj S S Pandey to file apetition before the Supreme Court.

"We certify that this is the fit case to be taken tothe Supreme Court so that proper directions can be given by itto make this tribunal functional and effective," he added.

Under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007, powers toprosecute a person for criminal contempt have been given underSection 19. Recommendations for necessary amendment in the Actwere sent to the Centre some time back by the tribunal. PTIAJD SC

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