Supreme Court stays Justice DC Chaudhary transfer, seeks explanation from AFT Chairperson

Justice D C Chaudhary

A bench of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra stayed the transfer order of Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary of the Chandigarh bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal to Kolkata on Monday. The Supreme Court bench has also sought a report from the Chairman of the Armed Forces Tribunal regarding the circumstances in which the transfer order of Justice Chaudhary was given.

The bench headed by the Chief Justice Chandrachud has also made it clear in its order that Justice Chaudhary is not required to take charge in Kolkata till further orders.The Chairperson of the Armed Forces Tribunal has been asked to submit the report in a sealed envelope by October 13.

The Supreme Court passed the order regarding stay on transfer of Justice DC Chaudhary , while hearing the petition of Chandigarh Armed Forces Tribunal Bar Association (Chandigarh AFT Bar Association). The bar , in its petition,   has alleged that the Defence  Ministry’s intervention is behind the transfer because Justice Chaudhary had initiated  proceedings against an officer of the defence accounts department for non-compliance of the tribunal’s  order. The Supreme Court bench has also said that the petitions heard in Chandigarh will not be disposed of without the permission of the Supreme Court.

Members of Chandigarh AFT Bar Association are also on strike in protest against the order of transfer of Justice Chaudhary from Punjab to West Bengal. AFT Bar considers this transfer order as a ‘direct attack on the judiciary’.

Senior advocate K Parameshwar, who argued the case on behalf of the Chandigarh AFT Bar Association, said that one prayer before the court was against the transfer of Justice Chaudhary and the other was about the way the tribunal function.

Advocate Parmeshwar said that AFT is under the control of the Defense Ministry. He told that the tribunal said five times that our order should please be implemented. He said that 600 petitions are pending due to non-compliance of the order by the Ministry.

Passing of strict orders against the Defence Ministry officers is being considered as the reason for Justice Choudhary’s transfer  from Chandigarh. AFT Bar Association of Chandigarh had sent a detailed letter in this regard to Supreme Court Chief Justice YV Chandrachud last month.

In another letter sent to Justice Chandrachud on October 4, the AFT Bar also complained about the comment made by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at a public event of the Defence Accounts Department, which raised suspicion about the interference of the ministry in  the matter. This program of the Defense Accounts Department was organised  on October 1 and  the video clip of which also went viral on social media. In this, the Defence Minister, while admitting to saving an officer, commented  that everyone cannot be made happy.

The Bar Association, in its complaint sent to the Chief Justice, has said that whatever may be the reasons behind the ‘direct attack’  on the independence of the AFT, it is neither acceptable to the lawyers nor to the large group of ex-servicemen, disabled ex-servicemen and widows,  who constitute the majority of litigants before the AFT.