Amid member shortage, NCLT to hear only ‘urgent cases’ – online

Citing increasing vacancies in posts, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on Monday said it will only hear “urgent cases” through video-conferencing in its 15 benches across the country until further orders.

“There is a shortage of Hon’ble members throughout the National Company Law Tribunal Benches that is amplified further with Members seeking leave…. The situation is currently being met by Members taking up multiple benches through VC,” the notification, issued by NCLT registrar Kamal Sultanpuri, stated.

Currently, there are 30 vacancies against a sanctioned strength of 63 and it is learnt that a selection panel has made 15 recommendations that are pending with the government. For the remaining vacancies, the Corporate Affairs Ministry has issued an advertisement for applications.

Sources told The Indian Express that some former members whose three-year tenure ended in June have also applied for appointment. According to the government’s response to a query in Parliament, NCLT had 20,963 cases pending before it in May.

From insolvency and bankruptcy, NCLT deals with several corporate structure issues and has both judicial and technical members to adjudicate disputes.

The Tribunal is at the centre of a standoff between the government and the judiciary over the appointments and service conditions of members. In 2019, the government fixed a tenure of three years or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier, for NCLT members. It appointed 23 members for a three-year tenure. However, with SC striking down the amendments that led to change in service conditions of Tribunal members, the government has been forced to revert to the five-year tenure.

On September 9, 2021, a notification was issued for appointment of 18 members for a term of five years. However, in June, the government extended the tenure for two additional years only for two judicial members and six technical members among 23 members appointed in 2019.

The government said the decision was taken after considering the “character, antecedents and work performance” of members. The decision was also signed off by a selection committee headed by CJI N V Ramana.