Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) Chairperson Justice Rajendra Menon inaugurated hearings by video conferencing for all ten Regional Benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal in Delhi. The Principal Bench of Armed Forces Tribunal (PB-AFT) is the only court that has been conducting physical hearings since 8 June 2020. Physical hearings are being conducted at principal bench taking into account hardships and limitations faced by Armed Forces personnel, retired as well as serving, primarily due to their far flung locations and various security related issues.
The Chairperson gives credit of incident free hearings to the principal registrar Dr Rakesh Kumar who has been advising on the ways to maintain impeccable hygiene standards at the principal bench. The court premises are being sanitised twice daily by the AFT employees only, even prior to declaring of nationwide lockdown. Entry to the court premises is also kept to bare minimum with proper social distancing and without compromising on the smooth work flow. The advocates appearing in the AFT are separated by a transparent sheet, from the judges and proper social distancing is maintained between court staff and judges.
For a total of eleven benches of AFT, which includes principal bench and ten regional benches spread all over the country, 34 judicial and administrative members have been sanctioned by the government. However, only four members are presently in the chair at principal bench, one judicial member and two administrative members are in the chair at Chandigarh, Mumbai and Chennai Benches respectively.
Even though the urgent applications of regional benches were being heard at principal bench, the requirement was felt to devise a procedure for hearing other matters of regional benches as well. Accordingly, a viable procedure for virtual hearings has been initiated. With this provision of hearing by video conferencing, an immense relief has been brought to the Armed Forces personnel, whose applications are awaiting justice at various regional benches.