In view of vacancies and lack of facilities at the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT), the Bombay High Court on Thursday said the Maharashtra government should take a decision on providing an office to the tribunal on its own instead of waiting for a court order.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Madhav Jamdar was hearing a petition filed by advocate Yogesh Morbale in 2020 highlighting the lack of infrastructure at the principle seat of MAT at Mumbai and its benches at Nagpur and Aurangabad, due to which it could not conduct online hearings through video conferencing during the Covid-19 lockdown. It said that it had “very old and non-functional computers” and there was a lack of technical manpower.
During the hearing on Thursday, Amruta Joshi, advocate for MAT, informed the HC that the tribunal's office had to be shifted from its premises near Vidhan Bhavan to a building in Nariman Point due to ongoing construction for the Metro project. For the relocation, Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) was paying around Rs 33 lakh to MAT earlier towards monthly rent.
However, in July, MMRCL wrote a letter to the principal secretary of the General Administration Department saying that it was facing a financial crunch due to the delay in the completion of the metro project, and would not be able to pay the rent amount to MAT. It further said that the government should pay the rent amount to MAT.
The court said that the Maharashtra government should not wait for its orders and decide on providing an alternate office to MAT.
CJ Datta said: “It is for the state government to ensure that the MAT functions. Why should we tell you what should be done. You should do on your own.”
The PIL, filed through advocates Vinod Sangvikar and Yashodeep Deshmukh, had sought that the MAT starts online hearings of the cases.
In October, the HC directed MAT to commence online filing and hearing of cases.
However, MAT registrar Suresh Joshi had submitted a report on November 3 stating that most of the computers being used at MAT were purchased between 2007 and 2014 and that almost 25 computers are very old and non-functional when it comes to hearing of matters through video conferencing. Also, it expressed inability due to lack of technical staff to handle VC facility.
The HC has kept the matter for hearing after two weeks.