M A I N   N E W S

Soon, common law for all three services
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 3
In a move that will remove variations in the law governing the three forces the Army, The IAF and Navy Defence Minister AK Antony today said the government was considering a common law to govern the three services.

In a statement laid in both houses of Parliament, Antony said the ministry had prepared a draft common law applicable to all three defence forces to ensure coordination in operations and functions. Its enactment was under the active consideration of the defence ministry. Work to have a common law called the Tri-Service Act, had begun in 2002 and the draft submitted to the ministry after approval from the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) in August 2009.

The need to have common law arose as the provisions contained in the three Service Acts are not similar and resulted in variations in delivery of justice.

Under the Air Force Act, three types of courts martial general court-martial, district court- martial and summary general court-martial have been provided. The Army Act, in addition to the three types of court-martial allowed in the IAF, also has summary court-martial which can try personnel below the rank of Junior Commissioned Officer and can award punishments of dismissal and imprisonment up to one year.

In contrast, the Navy has only one type of court-martial during peace time and a disciplinary tribunal during war. Unlike the Army and the Air Force, where the senior-most officer of the court-martial becomes the presiding officer, in the Navy the convening authority always nominates the president of the court-martial. In the Navy, the findings and sentence of courts-martial do not require confirmation of the convening authority or any superior authority and become operative the moment they are pronounced. The verdict of acquittal is final in the case of the Navy and not subject to confirmation or revision as in the Army and the Air Force.

Antony made it clear that Tri-Service Act was "under consideration in consultation with the three services," Antony said on the status of implementation of recommendations contained in the Parliamentary Standing Committee report on Unified Command for Armed Forces submitted to the Lok Sabha in February 2009.

With regard to the creation of a chief of defence staff, as recommended by the Kargil Review Committee, the minister said the proposal was "under examination", though the institutional support and infrastructure had already been created in the form of the Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters to support the CDS, whenever created.





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