Tuesday, December 4, 2018

On to Parliament?

Lt Gen (Ret) D.S. Hooda of the Indian Army writes here that the country's Parliament needs to step in now that the Supreme Court has determined that civilian justice has a role to play despite the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. Excerpt:
The military justice system is meant to preserve efficiency, good order and morale, and it has effectively ensured high standards of discipline in the Indian Army. The faith of soldiers in the military justice system remains strong because there is confidence that those dispensing justice have a clear understanding of the Army’s way of life. If this faith is eroded by diluting the provisions of the Army’s courts of inquiries and dragging Army personnel to criminal courts, it will adversely affect how the Army operates. It is likely that counter-terror operations will be characterised by caution and a play safe attitude.

Apprehensions of the Army are genuine, but this is a battle that cannot be won in the civil courts. We should be clear that there will always be a narrow interpretation of the law in allegations of human rights violations. It is the responsibility of the government to step in with legislation that ensures protection to the soldier from undue harassment. The Supreme Court correctly pointed out to the Solicitor General, “who has stopped you from coming out with a mechanism? Why does it require our intervention? These are issues which you have to discuss, not the courts.”

This is perhaps a good time to review the AFSPA. This act has long been criticised by civil society groups as being draconian, but an amendment to the act was strongly opposed by the Army on the grounds that it is an enabling act that provides the required protection to soldiers operating in disturbed areas. This may no longer be true.
By the way, is Parliament taking steps to overhaul the military justice system, which is seriously out of date (think: pre-Findlay)? 

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