Court martials: India

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Summary court martials

Should be exceptions; record reasons in writing

Ajay Sura, SC: Must give reason for summary court martial , March 5, 2017: The Times of India

The Supreme Court has dismissed the Army's petition seeking review of an order of the top court in July 2016 which had said that a summary court martial (SCM) must be held only in exceptional circumstances and its reasons recorded in writing.

In the review petition, the Army had stated that there was no provision in the Army Act for recording reasons for an SCM.

An SCM is held by the commanding officer of a corps, department or detachment to which an accused soldier belongs. The commanding officer alone constitutes the court. The SCM can pass any sentence under the Army Act except death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.

While dismissing the review petition, a division bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar clarified that reasons would have to be recorded from the date of the decision of the court, which is July 5, 2016.

The case was heard on February 16, but the order was released two days ago. In one of its most important rulings on military law, the SC had declared that SCM was an exceptional provision and not the rule.The apex court had affirmed the view of the Delhi high court that officials have to record the reasons holding it immediately .

The Delhi HC had held that the origin of SCM could be traced to the 1857 mutiny for “prompt and swift award of punishment to indisciplined sepoy malefactors.“

The SC endorsed the view of a committee of experts constituted by the defence minister, which had said SCM was not meant for regular recourse and should be replaced with a more robust system meeting constitutional norms.

Stealing the affections of a brother officer’s wife

‘Severe reprimand’ for Colonel found with junior’s wife/ 2018

Colonel found with junior’s wife gets ‘severe reprimand’, November 14, 2018: The Times of India

A general court martial on Tuesday sentenced a colonel to two years’ loss of seniority in pension and awarded him a “severe reprimand” for “unbecoming conduct” after he was found alone with a lieutenant colonel’s wife in the middle of the night at the Bathinda military station in Punjab in 2017.

An officer of the Corps of Engineers posted at the 10 Corps in Bathinda, the colonel was tried for “unbecoming conduct” and “acts prejudicial to good military order and discipline” under relevant sections of the Army Act by the court martial held at the Lalgarh Jattan military station in Sri Ganganagar district of Rajasthan.

Sources said the court martial, chaired by a brigadier, did not consider any charge of adultery. Military police had detained the colonel from the house of the lieutenant colonel, who was away in Chandigarh for a golf tournament, after the latter complained to a senior officer.

Though the verdict will have to be “confirmed” by higher Army authorities, a severe reprimand being recorded against an officer is usually enough to stop all further promotions in the force.

In September, the Supreme Court had struck down as unconstitutional Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which punished a married man for adultery if he had sexual relations with a married woman “without the consent or connivance of her husband”.

But an extra-marital affair, or “stealing the affections of a brother officer’s wife” in military parlance, is still considered a serious offence in the armed forces. Many officers indicted for such acts have been summarily sacked, sometimes without pension and other benefits.

The over 14-lakh personnel in the armed forces are governed by their respective Army, Navy and IAF Acts, which come down heavily on “unbecoming conduct and actions” that may strictly not be criminal acts under the IPC.

Though the verdict will have to be ‘confirmed’ by higher authorities, a ‘severe reprimand’ being recorded against an officer is usually enough to stop all further promotions

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