Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Decision of the Armed Forces Tribunal (India) on adulterous and extra-marital relations

In a decision which reflects upon the changing moral values in the society and their implication on the military, the Armed Forces Tribunal (Kolkata Bench) has set aside the termination of a Commissioned Officer of the Indian Air Force who was dismissed by the Central Government for driving a colleague to suicide due to an adulterous relationship. The termination has been converted into ‘release’ by the Tribunal. The background of the controversy can be made out from the following points of blame brought out by the Court of Inquiry:
(a) Knowing fully well that ABC is married to XYZ, had adulterous relationship with her.

(b) Failing to exercise caution and restraint by staying with ABC in her house No. 875/02, DJ Area, AFS Jodhpur in the absence of her husband XYZ during 03 Nov 12-07 Nov 12.

(c) Behaving in a manner unbecoming of an officer by maintaining extra marital/physical relationship with ABC, being himself married.

(d) Behaving in a manner unbecoming of an officer by luring ABC wife of XYZ into a relationship hereby stealing her love and affection.
The following observations of the Tribunal in the decision, which can be accessed here, assume importance in the case:
49. While not condoning extra marital relationships, we must, at the same time, reflect upon the changing mores of our society. With women joining the Armed Forces in large numbers, working closely and socialising with their male counterparts, it is unreasonable to expect that the Armed Forces would be immune to social changes in relationships between the two sexes, aided in no small measure by rapidly advancing technology. While such issues adversely impact on unit cohesion and ethos of the Services and should be rightly discouraged, the time has come when aspects such as unfortunate break ups of existing marital relationships, consensual relationships with others and infidelity should not be viewed so seriously as to lead to the dismissal or even graver punishments that the IPC and statutory Acts of the Army, Navy and Air Force provide for.

50. In the final analysis it appears that administrative action by way of dismissal of the applicant by the Government of India based on a flawed C of I was harsh especially when it is observed that the deceased seemed insistent on continuing with the relationship. It is also agreed that in these sensitive circumstances it would have been unwise and inexpedient too, to have tried the applicant by a GCM. The officer, we feel, should have been either summarily tried under Sec 86 of the Air Force Act, or censured under para 712 of the Regulations, or at best, been asked to resign his commission under the Air Force Rules 16(8) (supra) instead of being dismissed from service. This option at that point in time could have been exercised by the Air Force authorities. It is regrettable
that none of the above options were considered by the Air Force authorities and they proceeded with a single minded intent to dismiss the applicant from service expeditiously without taking into account the circumstances that led to the tragedy.
 It remains to be seen how the Union of India reacts to the decision.

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