A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice C.T. Ravikumar has clarified that judicial review of the order in transfer application passed by the Administrative Tribunal would only lie before the respective Jurisdictional High Courts within whose territorial jurisdiction, the Bench of the Tribunal falls. The Court also expunged certain remarks made by the Calcutta High Court terming them to be 'unwarranted' and 'uncalled for'.

In the present case, the Supreme Court set aside the impugned judgment passed by the High Court for lack of jurisdiction. Through its order, the High Court had set aside the order passed by the Principal Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal which had transferred the original application filed by the Respondent challenging the disciplinary proceedings initiated against him, from Kolkata to New Delhi. The High Court had held that order passed by the Chairman of the Principal Bench of the CAT in the case of the Respondent who was the retired Chief Secretary of West Bengal, was malafide in nature.

Solicitor General, Mr. Tushar Mehta appeared for the Appellants i.e. the Union of India, while Senior Advocate, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi appeared for the Respondent before the Apex Court.

The primary question for consideration was as follows –

  • Which is the High Court that will have jurisdiction and the power of judicial review over the order of transfer passed by the Chairman of the Principal Bench of Central Administrative Tribunal at Delhi as per Section 25 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985?

The Supreme Court held that though the cause of action for the disciplinary proceedings arose in the territorial jurisdiction of Kolkata, the impugned order of the transfer was passed by the Chairman, of Principal Bench at Delhi. Hence, the challenge to the transfer application ought to have been heard by jurisdictional court i.e. the High Court of Delhi and not the High Court of Calcutta.

Relying on the decision of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in L. Chandra Kumar vs. Union of India, the Court held that – "When once a Constitution Bench of this court declared the law that "all decisions of Tribunals created under Article 323A and Article 323B of the Constitution will be subject to the scrutiny before a Division Bench of the High Court within whose jurisdiction the concerned Tribunal falls", it is impermissible to make any further construction on the said issue."

"The expression "all decisions of these Tribunals" used by the Constitution Bench will cover and take within its sweep orders passed on applications or otherwise in the matter of transfer of Original Applications from one Bench of the Tribunal to another Bench of the Tribunal in exercise of the power under Section 25 of the Act. In other words, any decision of such a Tribunal, including the one passed under Section 25 of the Act could be subjected to scrutiny only before a Division Bench of a High Court within whose jurisdiction the Tribunal concerned falls", the Bench opined.

Further, the Bench held that – "This unambiguous exposition of law has to be followed scrupulously while deciding the jurisdictional High Court for the purpose of bringing in challenge against an order of transfer of an Original Application from one bench of Tribunal to another bench in the invocation of Section 25 of the Act."

Applying the above observation, the Bench stated that – "In the instant case, the High Court at Calcutta has usurped jurisdiction to entertain the Writ Petition, challenging the order passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal, New Delhi, even after taking note of the fact that the Principal Bench of the Tribunal does not lie within its territorial jurisdiction."

Thus, the Court held that – "the power of judicial review of an order transferring an Original Application pending before a Bench of the Tribunal to another Bench under Section 25 of the Act can be judicially reviewed only by a Division Bench of the High Court within whose territorial jurisdiction the Bench passing the same, falls."

In the light of such observations, the Apex Court allowed the appeal, set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court but granted the liberty to the Respondent to approach the High Court of Delhi.

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