SC displeased over “hurried” appointment of acting NCLAT Chairperson


PTI, Sep 15, 2021, 8:10 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday expressed displeasure over the “hurried” appointment of Justice M Venugopal as Acting Chairperson of the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT).

A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said it would take up the matter on Thursday and asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to take instructions on the issue.

“In advance, telling you (AG) to appear tomorrow, it’s regarding premature retirement of Justice Cheema as NCLAT Chairman. It appears he has been replaced. It says that 10 days before his retirement Mr Cheema, NCLAT chairman, hurriedly Mr Venugopal was appointed. Don’t know how this is happening,” said the bench also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao.

At the outset, senior advocate Arvind Datar, appearing for Madras Bar Association, said that for the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT), the search cum selection committee selected 41 people but only 13 have been chosen and “we don”t know” on what basis.

“It is a very disturbing trend. I request you to put an end to it at the earliest. All the appointment letters are being issued now including ITAT, they are sending WhatsApp messages. Now whether the tenure is to be four years or five years, that this court will decide next week,” he said.

“Assuming it is four years for now, the letters read that the appointment shall be ”until the age of 67 years or four years or until further orders, whichever is earlier”. Like Justice AIS Cheema (NCLAT), they are using until further orders. There is no provision in the Act for this and without any kind of provision, they are simply terminating the people,” Datar said.

The Centre on Saturday approved the proposal for appointment of eight Judicial members and 10 Technical members in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

Justice M Venugopal has been appointed as the Acting Chairperson of the NCLAT, as the key appellate tribunal continues to be without a permanent head now for more than 18 months.

Justice Venugopal has been appointed from September 11, 2021.

He is a former judge of the High Court of Madras. He had joined as a Sub-Judge in Tamil Nadu State Judicial Service on June 5, 1997 and later was elevated to high court in November 2007, where he had served for eleven-and-a-half years.

Justice Venugopal was appointed as a Judicial Member of the NCLAT on October 23, 2019 and was moved to the Chennai bench of the appellate tribunal on January 16, 2021.

Justice Mukhopadhaya, who was the full-time Chairperson, retired on March 14, 2020 after serving as Chairperson of the appellate body for almost four years.

Last week, the apex court had raised concerns, saying the Centre was “emasculating” tribunals by not appointing officials to the quasi-judicial bodies that are facing staff crunch.

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