New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stopped short of passing an order asking the Armed Forces Tribunal to examine the service conditions of 'army porters' who have been agitating with the Centre for regularisation of their services and sought the 'real picture' about them.
The apex court had framed questions for the tribunal to examine the issues plaguing the army porters, the civilian
part of the army deployed in some sectors like Nowshera (Rajouri) in Jammu and Kashmir but the Centre requested that it be given a week's time to analyse the aspect.
"Now that I have got to know the mood of the court, let me have some reaction time. Let me come back next week,"
Additional Solicitor General P S Patwalia pleaded before the bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur which posted the matter for hearing on 29 July.
However, before heeding to the plea of the law officer, the bench, also comprising justices FMI Kalifulla and AM
Khanwilkar, said, "We want to have a real picture placed before us.
"We want to know the larger picture. A large number of people are working as porters with the army in the region. The report will speak," the bench, which had already framed number of questions to be looked into by the tribunal, said.
It said it wanted the report of the tribunal on number of porters deployed by the army, the condition of their
employment and nature of work they are asked to perform.
It said it would like the tribunal to examine the duration of hours the porters are pressed into service and their
requirement for the security forces.
The bench had also framed the question about ammunition carried by the porters and wanted to know what type of records are maintained and can there be a way to improve the service condition.
While the bench was about to pass the order on the issues, the ASG said, "We are not shying away from the report but there is some practice in the army."
The bench said it wanted to know the real state of affairs on the issue to arrive at some solution.
"Does this involve security of state or threat to a territory. It is not something which we should grudge," it
The law officer also said he was not treating it as an adversarial litigation.
The court said the matter was being argued by senior advocate Bhim Singh, who is also chief of Panthers Party and
is well-versed with the region.
"Bhim Singh is a public figure in the region. He has his voters there," it said about Singh, who was appearing for the army porters.
He has accused the Centre of not complying with the 2013 order of the apex court.
The court had directed the Centre in May 2013 to consider within four months the plea of the army porters, who have been working for 15 years, for regularising them on the basis of their service record.
The porters had sought a direction to the Centre and the Ministry of Defence to regularise the services for those
working for 15 to 25 years.
It was submitted that the Central Administrative Tribunal had taken note of their plea in its order on 21 May, 2009, but rejected their claim while relying on the judgement of a Constitution Bench of the apex court.
When the porters appealed before the Armed Forces Tribunal, it did not hear the matter on the dispute of
The apex court, however, had said it was keeping the issue of jurisdiction open.