On April 29 last, the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT) of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, extended the jurisdiction of Central Administrative Tribunal’s Chandigarh bench over the J&K and Ladakh. The announcement immediately meant around 31000 employees whose cases were pending before J&K High Court had to seek redressal of the grievances pertaining to service matters before the bench far away in Chandigarh. Not only the 31000 employees but any other employee also had to petition CAT bench Chandigarh in the future.
As per Advocate General, the highest law officer of the J&K, pursuant to the abrogation of Article 370 and formation of UTs of J&K and Ladakh in terms of the provisions of the J&K Reorganization Act, 2019, all service matters of the government employee(s) in the UTs upon issuance of the 29 April 2020 notification were required to be heard and considered only by the CAT Chandigarh. However, the decision attracted resentment by all the aggrieved employees, lawyers and mainstream political parties, contending that it would hamper access to justice for the government workforce. The Chief Justice of J&K wrote to the concerned minister, seeking separate bench while underlining that the tribunal at Chandigarh would be hopelessly insufficient to provide efficacious dispensation to the disputants in service matters in J&K as well as in Ladakh.
On May 28, the government of India rose to the occasion and in a landmark decision, announced establishing a CAT Bench in Jammu. The government also specified Jammu and Srinagar as the places at which the Benches of the CAT shall ordinarily sit for J&K and Ladakh.
The announcement comes as a breather to the many especially aggrieved employees who would not feel deterred in petitioning the Tribunal and otherwise would not be denied justice.
The previous mechanism was bound to serve as a deterrent to the aggrieved employees besides being cumbersome and demoralising factor for them.
Once these cases were shifted to the CAT at Chandigarh, it was bound to prove a tedious and costly affair for almost all the litigants, which would surely defeat the purpose of constitutionally guaranteed justice at the doorstep of the citizens. The new arrangement was bound to save energy and money for the aggrieved employees, more so for daily wagers, casual labourers, consolidated workers, ITI and skilled workers, contractual and adhoc appointees, and Class IV employees. The litigants no more have to travel hundreds of kilometers in search of justice. One also hopes that the Tribunal lives up to the expectations of the litigants and deals expeditiously with all cases more so with the burgeoning docket.