Gujarat High Court issued a writ of mandamus directing immediate appointment of the Presiding Officer in the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT)-I at Ahmedabad by stressing the right to speedy justice enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution. The Court stressed that the State shouldn’t deny and delay the fundamental rights of citizens due to technical errors.
The petitioner, an Advocate enrolled in the Gujarat Bar Council and practising in various courts, submitted that DRT-I and DRT-II exercise jurisdiction over the State of Gujarat. He highlighted that the DRT-II have a presiding officer, but the post of DRT-I presiding officer remains vacant. This results in difficulty for litigants and the public.
The division bench of Chief Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh Shastri observed,” litigants whose matters are before DRT-II would be able to get the relief at the hands of DRT-II, whereas litigants who are similarly placed and seeking reliefs by filing the petition, which is pending before DRT-I, are not applicable to get the relief namely, their applications or petitions are getting adjourned from time to time for want of Presiding Officer and thereby depriving them of their legitimate right to speedy justice”.
The respondent State assured the Court that the appointment of the Presiding Officer would take place immediately. The Court questioned the State about the fundamental rights of the litigants being excluded because of the dysfunctional DRT-I. Also reminded of the Right to speedy justice under Article 21 of the Constitution as held by the Apex Court in Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association vs Union of India.
The petitioner further stressed the fact that the Ministry of Finance had issued a notification which gave an additional charge of DRT-I to the Presiding Officer of DRT-II extending up to March 31. 2022. “Since April 1, the Presiding Officer post of DRT-I is pending and all the proceedings are being adjourned”, he added.
The bench directed that till an appropriate notification is issued for the appointment of a Presiding Officer of DRT-I, the Presiding Officer of DRT-II will be the in-charge till then.