CJI Altamas Kabir suggests legal aid centres at CATs



New Delhi: Chief Justice Altamas Kabir on Saturday batted for setting up legal aid centres at Central Administrative Tribunal benches across the country to help needy women and children in getting justice in service related matters.

"There is one aspect of course in this entire thing which was troubling me a bit and I thought maybe this is a new area which you could think in terms of that the people who come before this Tribunal may not all have the means and the wherewithal to approach the Tribunal and get the relief they want," the CJI said.

He said people like widows of public service employees and their children who may not have the capacity to approach the panel to seek justice.

"I do not find in this particular scheme any provision as such for providing legal aid and assistance. Not legal assistance, but legal aid as such. This is not there in the Act or Rules.

"This is something which I think needs to be emphasised i.E., every one of our 17 benches across the country, Principal Bench here, we should have some provision for some kind of legal aid centre," he said at the annual conference of Central Administrative Tribunals here.

CAT Chairman Syed Rafat Alam, in his address, lamented that following a seven-judge bench decision of the Supreme Court, the orders of the panel have been made open to judicial review by the High Courts and suggested that it be "revisited" as even the Law Commission has supported it.

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said the High Courts' power to review its orders should not "detract" CAT from carrying out its work of providing relief to employees through its judgements.

The CJI said very few matters come from CAT to the High Courts because the people have accepted this as a kind of "finality in litigation".

Supreme Court Judge R M Lodha said if the government removes its "tag" of being a "compulsive litigant" then very few CAT orders will be challenged in the High Courts.

He also said the government should ensure that the orders of CAT are implemented and they should not be "unnecessarily" challenged before the High Courts and the Supreme Court.

The CJI also urged the Law Minister and Minister of State for Personnel V Narayansamy to consider enhancing the term of judicial members of CAT from 5 years to 10 years as they leave their legal practice behind to serve the tribunal.

PTI