HC Dismisses With Rs 50K Costs Bar Body’s Plea Challenging Reappointment of Railway Claims Tribunal Chairperson

 The Delhi High Court has dismissed with Rs 50,000 costs a petition by a bar body challenging the reappointment of retired Justice K S Ahluwalia as Chairperson of the Railway Claims Tribunal, saying any attempt to “vilify judges” without reasonable basis cannot be permitted.

The high court said the petition filed by Rail Dawa Bar Association, Lucknow, is a malafide attempt to throw mud on the reputation of the incumbent and a gross abuse of process.

“In the opinion of this court, the entire attempt in this petition on behalf of the lawyers’ association is to raise aspersions against the duly constituted Tribunal. Accordingly, considering the nature of submissions made in court and in the pleadings, the writ petition is dismissed.

“It is made clear that any attempt to vilify judges, without any reasonable basis, be it judges of constitutional courts, trial courts or judges presiding over quasi-judicial bodies cannot be permitted,” Justice Prathiba Singh said in an order which was passed on March 3 and made available on the high court’s website on March 10.

The court said costs of Rs 50,000 shall be paid by the petitioner body to the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee within four weeks.

The petition was filed by the lawyers’ association seeking direction to call the entire official records from respondents Centre and Railway Board — leading to the decision to again appoint retired Justice K S Ahluwalia as the Chairman of Railway Claims Tribunal, New Delhi.

The plea sought quashing and setting aside of the decision to re-appoint Justice Ahluwalia to the post.

It also sought direction to the authorities concerned to frame rules and regulations laying down a fair and transparent selection procedure for appointment to the posts of Chairman, Vice Chairman (Judicial), Vice Chairman (Technical), Member (Judicial) and Members (Technical) in the Railway Claims Tribunal, which are posts of public importance in a quasi-judicial authority.

The high court said it noticed that apprehensions have been expressed in the past about false claims filed before railway tribunals and during the submissions, it was stated that several cases were transferred from the Lucknow Bench.

“Thus, the petition appears to have been filed due to some oblique motives,” it said.

The court perused the affidavit filed by the Centre in response to the petition and said it showed that the Search-Cum-Selection Committee was duly constituted in accordance with the orders passed by the Supreme Court as also the applicable Act and Rules.

In the rejoinder, the petitioner alleged the committee just “handpicked out of a hat” five eligible candidates even though there were more than 60-70 eligible persons and that the whole exercise is “fishy and clearly smacks of favoritism and nepotism”.

Perusing the document, the high court said, “However, the language used in the rejoinder (by petitioner) clearly shows that the intention is to simply raise baseless and scandalous allegations. The rejoinder smacks of sensationalism which uses completely unbecoming language. Wild allegations are made by the petitioner without verification of facts or law.”

The court said the intention of the petitioner appeared to be simply to besmirch various individuals for some inexplicable reason, rather than to raise grounds within the confines of law.

The entire process which has been explained in the counter affidavit of the Ministry of Railways shows all the requisite safeguards have been followed and the appointment process conducted in accordance with the applicable Act and Rules, it said.

“After having perused the counter affidavit and the rejoinder filed by the petitioner, this court has noted that the present writ petition, in fact, is a mala fide attempt to throw mud on the reputation of the incumbent and is a gross abuse of process. Unnecessary and scandalous allegations have been made in the rejoinder which this Court does not condone.

“The process of appointment has been explained in the counter affidavit and has been perused by the court. None of the grounds which have been raised in this writ petition are made out for setting aside of the said appointment/reappointment,” the court said.

It said it was clear that the petition and the pleadings filed by the petitioner are “nothing but an attempt towards undermining the dignity of the current Chairman of the Railway Claims Tribunal and impede in the functioning of the Railway Claims Tribunal”.

Initially, Justice Ahluwalia took over charge as Chairperson of the tribunal on July 10, 2019 and retired on May 30, 2022 upon attaining the age of 65 years. He was reappointed to the post in August 2022.

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