Report No. 169
Amendment of Army, Navy and AIR Force Acts
1.1. The Objective.-
The idea underlying this report, taken up suo motu, is that while maintaining the discipline in the Armed Forces, the dignity of the individual must be respected. It is necessary to ensure that Armed Forces are not deprived of the services of the cream of the society and that the bright and courageous among them do not keep out on account of inadequate machinery for getting justice in the Armed Forces, or for fear of being punished for no wrong done by them. It is equally necessary to ensure that punishment is not disproportionate to the offence and also to make the military law more humane and dynamic to bring it in tune with the culture in the Armed Forces of the developed countries.
It should be remembered that a soldier's life is not a comfortable one. Most of the time he is away from his family. It is the sense of pride and sacrifice in the cause of country's defence that sustains him. It would not be proper to deny him justice which is available to other citizens of the country. It must also be remembered that military discipline cannot be based only upon domination and implicit obedience to the orders of the superiors. The superiors must continuously demonstrate their competence and technical ability in order to command respect and loyalty of those under them. Keeping this in mind, many democratic nations have felt it necessary to rewrite their military laws to provide greater protection against arbitrary action.
It is not correct to say that in as much as the number of persons affected by military law and the courts martial are small or because the members of the Armed Forces have voluntarily submitted themselves to the existing system with all its defects, no reform of the law is called for. It should not be forgotten that military justice system is evolved to enforce certain standards of behaviour, some of which are identical to standards enforced in civilian life. The higher standards of conduct and discipline in the Armed Forces are called for not only to keep in readiness an efficient fighting machine but also to command public respect for the Armed Forces. Justice and discipline should go together.
1.2. It should also be borne in mind that even today interference by High Court and Supreme Court with the decisions and findings of courts martial are not totally excluded. Instead of each High Court adopting its own approach in these matters, it would be desirable, and it would be conducive to better discipline, if a single appellate tribunal is created to hear the appeals against the findings, decisions and orders of the courts martial under all the three enactments. The Army Act and the Air Force Act were enacted in 1949-50 and are based mostly upon the British Acts. While the law in the United Kingdom has made several advances as indicated hereinbefore, the military law in India has remained more or less rooted in the past. This report is an attempt to rectify the situation in certain respects.