Under Supreme Court pressure, the central government on Thursday reinstated former judge AIS Cheema as the acting National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) chairman, days after removing him from office and replacing him with a new acting chairman.
Cheema’s sudden replacement, just days ahead of his retirement, had caused much outrage, with the Madras High Court Bar Association objecting in court to the trend of the government replacing tribunal heads as and when it liked.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar had drawn the court’s attention to the trend and sought court intervention to check this. Cheema also moved the court challenging the sudden decision to replace him on the ground that he had some judgements to deliver before he retired.
Acting on his plea, a bench led by CJI NV Ramana prevailed upon the central government to restore Cheema at the helm of affairs at the NCLAT for a few days so that he could complete his work. His replacement, Justice M Venugopal, would go on leave for a few days to allow him to complete his work.
At one point of time, the CJI had to hold out the threat of staying suo motu the government’s newly enacted Tribunals Act that seeks to reinstate certain provisions struck down by the court as unconstitutional. These relate to the tenure and service conditions of those who hold offices in specialised tribunals throughout the country. The court has taken this seriously. Coupled with the spiralling vacancies in tribunals, the bench has been insisting that the government immediately fill them up as per recommendations of the top court or have them filled up by court orders.
As the alternative, the government can face contempt or have the law stayed. The AG, quick to sense the court’s mood, sought time to confer on the issue with the government and came back with the offer to reinstate Cheema. “You don’t have an issue with his integrity, do you?” CJI Ramana asked.
The AG said that the government didn’t. The AG did, however, protest that things could get awkward with the new appointee. “Who is responsible for this situation? Who made things awkward?” the CJI countered.Internet Explorer Channel Network