Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Should Indian armed forces have a common code of justice?

Wing Commander (ret) U C Jha's Unification of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force Act, while written some time ago, is well worth re-reading given India's current consideration of military justice changes. It was published by the United Service Institution of India. Excerpt:
A uniform code would be more appropriate in view of the fact that the three Services are increasingly deployed on joint operations in India and abroad, for which they train together. Within joint command and units the basic principle should be that service personnel are subject to the same systems and the same rights and penalties, except where a special rule applicable only to the member of one Service is essential. 
The law is not static and needs to be amended at regular intervals to keep pace with the changes in the international norms and domestic law of the country. The piecemeal amendments over the years have brought about few changes but they have not been helpful in keeping service law in line with developments in civilian law. Due to bureaucratic apathy and non-priority to issues of military justice, amendment to the Service laws has taken inordinately long. The existence of separate Acts makes the use, interpretation and amendment of the Acts more complicated. It would be easier to modernise and amend a common code for the Services than to do so individually. . . . 
The modernistion and unification of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force Act should be undertaken keeping in view our own experiences as well as developments in other democracies. We cannot insulate ourselves from the changes in systems followed in other countries, especially because our forces are internationally recognized and are part of peacekeeping missions the world over. Therefore, there is a need to create a common code of justice, which will promote discipline in the Armed Forces.

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