Sacking of IRS official: Calcutta HC sets aside CAT order

Vindicating the central governments stance, the Calcutta High Court on Friday nullified the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)s Kolkata Bench, terming it as usurpation of jurisdiction. The CAT order on Wednesday had stayed the compulsory retirement handed to an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) official under Section 56(j) of fundamental rules. The government argued in the high court that the CAT was required to refer the matter to a division Bench, but instead the matter was heard by a single judicial member of the tribunal. The government also produced documents to prove that division Bench was available on the date the matter was heard and decided by the CAT. The high court, while setting aside the CAT order, said the single judicial member of the CAT had usurped a jurisdiction that did not vest in him. Further, the court said the order had committed judicial impropriety, and directed the other issues related to matter be heard by the division Bench of the CAT, which would not include the judicial member who had heard the case earlier. Over the last month, the government has used 56(j) to retire at least 27 revenue department officials who have been facing corruption cases. Under this section, the performance of an officer who has turned 50 or 55 or has completed 30 years of service (whichever is earlier,) is reviewed to ascertain if he\/she is liable for compulsory retirement. Though the Section 56(j) has been in vogue for several decades, it has sparingly been invoked. On Thursday, the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in another case related to 56(j) directed the Lucknow Bench of the CAT to first decide the whether it had jurisdiction over such matter. The tribunal had passed an order asking the central government to produce all records of compulsory retirement case in pertaining to Ram Kumar Bhargava, an IRS official. The government had challenged the CAT order on the ground that the CAT at present has no jurisdiction because there is an alternate remedy available to the retired officer to file representation before the Representation Committee under Rule 56J. In a similar case earlier this week, the CAT Bench in Odisha heard the matter but the order was reserved.


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