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In the month of April, the jurisdiction of Central Administrative Tribunal’s Chandigarh bench was extended by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions. This extension has been done over the Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, which means that all the matters of UTs employees and Central Government employees will be heard by the Chandigarh Bench in J&K.

The move has been severely criticized by Political Parties and lawyers’ fraternity on the ground that it will cause miscarriage of justice as it is difficult for 4.9 lakh employees of the UT to access justice given in this manner. The Chief Justice of J&K High Court has written a letter regarding the same, urging for a permanent bench of CAT in the UT of J&K

The lawyers’ body have demanded for a permanent bench in the UT and have criticized this extended jurisdiction of the Chandigarh Bench. Former Advocate General of J&K has said that it will be a tough task for Chandigarh bench to manage the matter of UT when there are already 31,000 pending cases in the high court related to service matters. And that the litigants will find it difficult to cope with this as they will directly have to go to Chandigarh for the same. A petition was filed in the High Court saying that it will be impossible for lawyers and litigants to represent themselves at Chandigarh Bench of CAT due to unavailability of internet access, financial restrictions and geographic remoteness.

The Center has responded to his concern and have said that no petitioner or lawyer will need to Chandigarh in respect to any matter, all such matters will be heard by the bench in J&K itself. And with regard to pendency of cases, the CAT bench will hold more frequent sittings to dispose the service matters related to central government employees.

The letter from the Chief Justice of J&K Gita Mittal has asked to set up a permanent bench of CAT in J&K and the multiple benches should be set up, as the a single bench will not be sufficient to dispose the disputed in both the UTs. It also added that the pendency of case in J&K High court is way more than that of other administrative tribunals in Hyderabad, Allahabad, Chennai etc. In the response of this letter, the CAT chairman has issued a clarification which states that more benches permanent benches in J&K need not be so apprehensive.

When J&K had a special status and Article 370 was still in force, the service matters of the state government employees were dealt by J&K High court and the central government employees were heard by CAT. However, since the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 is only for States and not UTs, J&K cannot have an administrative tribunal of its own. And therefore, 31,641 service matters, pending in the High court will have to be transferred to the tribunal of Chandigarh bench.

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