In a short opinion in the case Union of India v. Umakanta Dash, the Supreme Court of India earlier this week has held that though lenient view cannot be taken on matters of discipline concerning members of the Armed Forces, still the mandate of law cannot be given a short shrift. The following was observed by the Apex Court:
“We have carefully examined the evidence on record and we are in agreement with the judgment of the Tribunal that the respondent was not given sufficient opportunity as provided under the Army Rules. Rule 22 of the Army Rules which provides that the delinquent shall be given full liberty to cross examine any witnesses against him and to call such witness and make such statement that may be necessary for his defense. We agree with Mr Balasubramanian that lenient view cannot be taken in matters of discipline in the Armed Forces. However, we are of the view that the delinquent person should be given adequate opportunity to defend himself in respect of allegations of misconduct or indiscipline which are made against them. The mandatory provisions in the Act and the Rules have to be scrupulously followed.”
The Court was hearing an appeal from the order of the Armed Forces Tribunal wherein a soldier accused of assault on a superior officer who was dismissed from service and awarded imprisonment of 9 months by a Court Martial was granted pension on notional completion of pensionable service by the tribunal.