Thursday, July 16, 2009

Armymen to be tried in civil courts for criminal offences

The military forces in India have almost a separate life with a separate code of honor and law; their life is much more controlled than the lives of ordinary civilians. As a result, they have a separate process for justice, with a separate legal system that governs them. This includes offences they commit that are normally treated as criminal offences for the normal citizens of the country such as rape, murder, theft, etc; instead, these were normally handled through the military process of court-martials where military designated justices handle these offences. This would make sense if the crime was committed at a military owned location, or at the border of the country. However, in the past, it was argued that if a soldier was on leave and then committed a crime, even this was under the jurisdiction of military justice. This was because even under casual leave, the soldier was still under the jurisdiction of the army. However, a judge of the Madras High Court has ruled that such offences can also be handled in the civilian court system (link to article):

The Madras High Court Bench in Madurai has held that the armed forces personnel accused of committing murder, rape and other such crimes could be tried in a criminal court and not necessarily through court martial.
Justice A Selvam in his order yesterday said both the criminal court as well as the Army courts enjoyed concurrent jurisdiction to try criminal offences. Justice Selvam agreed that a soldier on casual leave could be considered to be in active service. However, he said that neither Army act nor the code of criminal procedure prevented a criminal court from conducting trial against servicemen.

This makes a lot of sense, since if a crime is committed under the laws of the country, it should be handled by the constitutionally valid legal system of the country.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 1:46 AM