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Indian Polity

Court Martial

  • 10 Mar 2023
  • 3 min read

Prelims: Court Martial, Court of Inquiry, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, FIR, Code of Criminal Procedure.

Mains: Court Martial and Legal recourse for Accused.

Why in News?

An Army court has recommended life imprisonment for a Captain involved in the staged killings of three men at Amshipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district in 2020. The sentence will be final after it is confirmed by the Northern Army Commander.

  • The Captain was court-martialled after a Court of Inquiry (CoI) and subsequent summary of evidence found that troops under his command had exceeded their powers under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

What is the Process of Court Martial?

  • When the Army wants an allegation against its personnel investigated, it first sets up a CoI for the purpose.
  • A Court of Inquiry investigates the complaint but cannot award a punishment. The CoI records the statements of witnesses, which is comparable to the examination of witnesses by a police officer under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
  • Based on the findings of the CoI, a tentative charge sheet is drawn up by the commanding officer of the accused officer.
    • After this, the hearing of charges takes place (just like the initial summoning of an accused by the magistrate in a case involving civilians). The summary of evidence is then recorded.
  • Once this process has been completed, a General Court Martial (GCM) is ordered; similar to the conduct of a trial by a judicial court for civilian matters.

What is the Legal Recourse Available?

  • Under section 164 of the Army Act 1950, the accused can file a pre-confirmation petition as well as one post- confirmation.
    • A pre-confirmation petition will go to the Army Commander, who may look into its merits.
    • Whereas a post-confirmation petition must be filed with the government since the officer is cashiered — his ranks are removed, and he is dismissed from service — after confirmation of the sentence by the Army commander.
  • After these options have been exhausted, the accused can approach the Armed Forces Tribunal, which can suspend the sentence.
    • For instance, in 2017, the Tribunal suspended the life sentences awarded to five Army personnel, including two officers, in the Machil fake encounter case of 2010.

Source: IE

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