The bar associations of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) at Jammu and Lucknow, have expressed solidarity with the AFT Chandigarh Bar Association in objecting to the transfer of Judicial Member, Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary from Chandigarh to the Kolkata Bench of the AFT.
Resolutions issued by both associations on Tuesday condemned the transfer and stated that the core issue of the controversy not only affects the bar and bench in Chandigarh but impacts the legal and judicial fraternity across the country.
The associations expressed their solidarity with the Chandigarh AFT Bar Association "for the cause of upholding the respect, integrity and independence of the judiciary."
Both associations are expected to hold general body meetings at the earliest to decide on their further course of action.
On September 25, the chairperson of the AFT transferred judicial member Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary from the Chandigarh bench to the Kolkata bench of the tribunal "for administrative reasons in public interest."
In a strongly worded letter sent to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud on Monday, the AFT Bar Association at Chandigarh alleged that Justice Chaudhary's transfer was triggered by the strict orders he passed against senior government officials of the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
"The chairperson of AFT, whose extension is due in Nov 2023, has suddenly transferred the Judicial Member-cum-Head of Department (HOD) of Chandigarh bench, former acting Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary, because he refused to buckle under pressure of the MoD and presumably the chairperson, who did not want uncomfortable orders to be passed against the senior functionaries of MoD," the letter claimed.
The letter also asserted that the transfer was a direct assault on the independence of the judiciary and requested the CJI to quash the same.
On Monday, the association also decided to indefinitely abstain from work as a mark of protest.
They have put forth several demands, which include:
The cancellation of the transfer.
The removal of AFT from the control of the Ministry of Defence, as previously directed by the Supreme Court.
Ensuring the insulation of AFT and its members from undue influence and pressure.
The implementation of AFT judgments that have been pending and unimplemented for years.
Putting an end to the re-appointment of the Chairperson and members, as it has an impact on their independence.
The Ministry should cease filing unnecessary appeals against AFT orders.