Jurisdiction of High Courts cannot be circumvented: Delhi HC rules on judicial review of AFT orders
The Delhi High Court said on Tuesday that the Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007 excludes the High Court’s administrative oversight under Section 227(4) of the Constitution, but “not judicial oversight” and ” certainly not” jurisdiction under Section 226 of the Constitution. He said the Supreme Court restored the right to challenge AFT verdicts in the High Courts.
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“The jurisdiction of the High Court under Sections 226 and 227 of the Constitution cannot be circumvented merely by providing a direct appeal to the Supreme Court against an order of a court on the ground that the Supreme Court is exercising jurisdiction under the sections 30 and 31 of the Armed Services Tribunal Act 2007 only if a point of law of general public importance is at issue,” the divisional bench of Judge Manmohan and Judge Navin Chawla said in a verdict.
The issue before the court in a batch of applications was whether a High Court can exercise judicial review in brief against judgments and orders made by the Armed Forces Tribunal. Center had argued that the Supreme Court had specifically ruled that the High Courts should not hear written petitions against judgments rendered by the Armed Services Tribunal, as the parties had an effective alternative remedy of filing an appeal with the Supreme Court under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007.
However, the court said that a court must operate under the statute while the superior judiciary, including the high courts, is entrusted not only with the task of interpreting laws and the Constitution, but also with oversight. judiciary of the courts in order to preserve the independence of justice.
“The Constitution confers on the Constitutional Court a power of judicial review which has an exclusive character. Judicial review somehow answers the age-old question “who keeps the guards”? Judicial review among many other important aspects of the Constitution is indispensable and while creating any other mode of dispute resolution, judicial review cannot be compromised,” the bench said.
The Court also stated that the power of judicial review has always been considered one of the fundamental characteristics of the Constitution. “However, the Court of Writs, when reviewing the judgment/order made by the Tribunal, will exercise the power of judicial review, which means that the Court will review the decision-making process and only intervene to correct the errors of jurisdiction or apparent errors of registration or if the Tribunal acts unlawfully,” he said.
She further pointed out that curial deference must be exercised when considering the reasons a tribunal gives for its decision.