The Supreme Court on Monday effectively halted the transfer of an Armed Forces Tribunal judge from the principal bench at Chandigarh to the Kolkata bench, reported Live Law.

A bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra asked the chairperson of the principal bench to submit a report, explaining the circumstances under which Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary had been transferred.

The bench was hearing a petition by the Armed Forces Tribunal Chandigarh Bar Association, which alleged that Chaudhary had been transferred because he passed a strict order against senior government officials of the Ministry of Defence in a matter related to disability pension.

Advocate K Parmeshwar, representing the association, said that they were also seeking to remove the financial and administrative control of the defence ministry over the tribunal.

“Six hundred applicants are stuck before the court because the ministry doesn’t implement orders,” Parmeshwar added.

In its order, the court stated that it was important to note the grievance of the association as the exercise of the power of judicial review in matters of transfer is subject to self-imposed restraint.

“The circumstances in which the judge has been transferred from Chandigarh to Calcutta would merit close scrutiny,” said the bench.

On September 25, the association wrote to the chief justice, seeking quashing of Chaudhary’s transfer order, as per Live Law.

“The chairperson of AFT, whose extension is due in November 2023, has suddenly transferred the judicial member-cum-head of department of Chandigarh bench, Former Acting Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary, because he refused to buckle under pressure of the ministry of defence and presumably the chairperson, who did not want uncomfortable orders to be passed against the senior functionaries of the ministry,” it wrote.

In August, the association asked the chief justice to take cognisance of the allegedly “shockingly contemptuous communication” issued by the tribunal cell of the ministry to the principal bench.

This came after the defence secretary reportedly demanded a report on the recent decisions on pay and pension matters by the Chandigarh bench of the tribunal with an analysis.