The government on Thursday appointed a new presiding officer and a new technical member to the Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT), after functioning with a single member for more than three months.

Justice PS Dinesh Kumar, former Chief Justice, High Court of Karnataka, has been appointed as the presiding officer. Dheeraj Bhatnagar, retired Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax, Delhi has been appointed as the technical member. The tenure for both members will be for four years, a gazette notification said.

“It is anticipated that the new appointees will promptly assume their roles, enabling SAT to fully function and tackle the backlog of cases accumulated during the period of incomplete quorum. Moreover, they will need to revisit several significant cases that were previously heard by the retiring bench but remained unresolved,” said Sumit Agrawal, Founder, Regstreet Law Advisors.

The Tribunal’s presiding officer Justice Tarun Agarwala had retired and demitted office on December 29. Justice MT Joshi vacated his office in February last year.

A SAT bench is supposed to consist of three members that includes a presiding officer and a technical member. At least one judicial member is required to pronounce a final order.

Two-bench in offing?

Non-availability of a complete bench since January has resulted in an increased backlog of cases as most matters had to be adjourned. 

Cases such as Bombay Dyeing and Franklin Templeton which were argued before the previous bench and in which orders have not been passed, will have to be argued afresh before the new bench.

“The pendency of matters before SAT has risen and matters can now be taken up for hearing and final disposal. In the absence of quorum, litigants were approaching the High Court for urgent reliefs. With the vacancy being fulfilled, litigants can now approach SAT for appropriate reliefs,” said Pulkit Sukhramani, Partner - Securities Litigation, JSA.

Agrawal believes that the appointment and notification of one more judicial member could result in two SAT benches, which would significantly alleviate the backlog of cases. In his 2016 budget speech, former finance minister Arun Jaitley had announced the expansion of SAT benches.

SAT hears appeals against orders passed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.