Asking the Centre to expedite the appointment process for TDSAT members, the SC posted the matter for further hearing in the first week of May.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday extended by three months the tenure of Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) chairperson Justice Shiva Kirti Singh. He was due to retire on April 20. A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde, while hearing the issue via video conferencing, asked the Centre to explain how the tribunal was supposed to function in the absence of its two members and also when the chairperson’s tenure would also end on April 20.
“We express our concern regarding appointments of administrative member(s) and technical nember(s) not being made after the posts fell vacant long ago. We extend the tenure of the chairperson of TDSAT for a period of three months from the date of expiry of his/her tenure ie April 20,” the SC said.
Expressing displeasure at the state of affairs, the apex court observed: “How can the TDSAT work without sitting members? Tribunals are alternatives to the judicial system. Only the chairperson is there and his tenure also ends on April 20. How can the tribunal function like this?” the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who sought time to get instructions from the government on the appointment.
Asking the Centre to expedite the appointment process for TDSAT members, the SC posted the matter for further hearing in the first week of May. The apex court was hearing a plea raising the issue of vacancies in TDSAT. It said the telecom tribunal was on the verge of becoming non-functional because of government apathy on the appointments. Senior advocate Vikas Singh argued that the government was not doing anything to appoint Justice Singh’s successor and this would halt the tribunal’s operations.
He pointed out that the last appointment to the tribunal was made in April 2017. In this interim period of three years since the last appointment, the two remaining members – an administrative member and a technical member — retired in October 2018 and May 2019, respectively.
The senior counsel further pointed out that the Intellectual Property Appellate Tribunal is also headless despite clear directions by the SC to appoint its chairperson.