The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up the Centre on vacancies in various tribunals during the hearing of the Delhi Gymkhana Club case, saying that there are no officers to man the tribunals, and names are recommended but no one knows why they are not cleared.
A bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and C.T. Ravikumar told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, "You keep vacancies, there are no officers to man the tribunals. That is the problem. Names are recommended, why they are not cleared no one knows ... no timeline. Time has come to declare tribunals defunct."
Mehta said the Delhi Gymkhana Club (DGC) matter hearing is almost concluded in National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The bench replied that the other side is yet to argue the matter. Mehta said there would not be any delay and sought two weeks to complete the matter.
Justice Khanwilkar said: "Look at the predicament of the tribunal...how can we pressurise the tribunal to do it within a month." Mehta said the central government has not shown non-cooperation in the matter. The bench told Mehta, "The tribunal does not have enough space to accommodate...litigants are suffering, you should also take those consequences."
The top court made these strong observations after learning that the tribunal could not complete the hearing in the DGC matter, due to the vacancies.
On several occasions, the Chief Justice N.V. Ramana had made strong observations against Centre due to delay in filling up vacancies in various tribunals. In February, a bench headed by Chief Justice said: "Some knee-jerk appointments took place and nothing happened after that. We do not know the fate of members and many are retiring". The top court emphasized that the bureaucracy is taking the issue lightly.
On February 24, the Supreme Court noted that the Attorney General (AG) K.K. Venugopal has circulated an email saying that vacancies in all tribunals across the country are almost filled.
The top court on Friday was hearing an application filed by the DGC members seeking a direction to the Centre's appointed club administrator, to conduct elections. The application, filed by retired Major Atul Dev and others, said: "Following the directions passed by this court vide order dated September 30, 2021, the appellants vide email dated February 4,2022, had also written to the administrator (Om Pathak), Delhi Gymkhana Club to take appropriate steps for reinstituting the elected committee by elections."
The apex court passed an order on September 30, last year, directing the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to decide the entire matter afresh within four months' time, and if not decided within this period, then the administrator should conduct elections to install a duly elected committee. However, this time period got over in February and the NCLT has not concluded the proceedings in the matter.
The Ministry of Corporate Affairs,in April 2020 moved the NCLT under sections 241 and 242 of the Companies Act, 2013, seeking to supersede the club's general committee and allow it to nominate 15 persons as directors to run the club's affairs.
The NCLT in June, 2020, had asked the government to constitute a five-member special committee to enquire into the affairs of the club, among other issues.
The NCLAT, on February 15 2021, dissolved the club's General Committee and directed the Centre to appoint an administrator to manage its affairs, after the Ministry of Corporate Affairs moved the tribunal alleging corruption, mismanagement, and nepotism in the club.
On September 30, in a major relief for the former general committee of the club, the Supreme Court, while hearing the appeals filed against the NCLAT, remanded the matter back to the NCLT and asked it to settle it within four months.