History of Indian Military Law and Its Extent from The Days of The Raj
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History of Indian Military Law and Its Extent from The Days of The Raj

Indian military law traces its origin to the days of rule by the East Indian Company. The acts passed during that period are the fore runner of the modern Indian military law. The Company passed the Articles of War which led to the Indian army act 1911. The Indian army act 1950 is a reprint of the act of 1911 with minor modifications.

Indian Military law is nearly 250 years old and traces its origin to the troops first recruited by the East India Company. The East India Company was initially a trading company and it hired guards to protect its warehouses and establishments at Surat, Madras, Masulipatam, Hooghly and Balasore.

The first act was passed in 1754 and is referred to as Act 27 Geo II, Cap 9. It was titled “Punishing Mutiny and Desertion of officers and soldiers in the service of the United Company of Merchants of England trading to the East Indies and punishment of offences committed in the East Indies or the island of Saint Helena”. Section 8 of this act empowered the Crown to frame Articles of War.

These formed the first basis of Military law in India. At that time the ruling Company Presidencies of Madras, Bengal and Bombay framed their own set of laws for the troops under their control. But by 1800 a need was felt for a universal law in India for all the troops of the company, as the company rule had expanded greatly and covered almost 2/3 of India. In 1813 the articles of War was made applicable to all officers and enlisted men of the East India Company’s army. Initially the act of 1813 was made applicable only to European officers. In 1824(S Geo IV, Cap 81, Section 63) Indian soldiers were also brought within the ambit of the Company military law.

In 1833 the Government of India enacted the “Articles of war” and made it applicable to all troops of the East India Company.  The mutiny of 1857 shook the English rulers and after it was suppressed, Queen Victoria abrogated the rule of the East India Company and the Crown took over the governance of India.

The mutiny gave the British much food for thought and the concept of martial races was created in India. Recruitment to the army was now confined to the martial races namely the Sikhs, Gurkhas, Dogras, Rajputs and Punjabis.

The Governor General repealed all earlier laws and the “Articles of War 1869” were passed. This is recognized as the first Military law which was made applicable to the entire Indian army. In 1894 the act was replaced with the “Indian Articles of War”. This formed the basis of the first statutory code enacted in 1911, known as the Indian Army Act 1911. This act was passed in March. 1911 and came into force on 1st January, 1912. By section 127 of this act all previous acts and laws stood repealed. The act was amended a number of times in 1914, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920, 1923, 1930 and 1935

 During the period of the First World War (1914-18) the Governor General by act of 1917 provided for suspension of all sentences of imprisonment under the army act 1911. The purpose was to get the maximum available manpower to fight the Central Powers.

With the departure of the British in 1947, Independent India felt a need for the revision of the Army Act 1911.  A bill to amend the act was introduced in the Constituent Assembly on 21 December 1949. The act was passed on 20 May 1950 and   is known as the Indian Army Act 1950(Act XLVI of 1950). Similar acts were passed for the Navy and the Air Force. The Army act 1950 broadly followed the Indian Army act of 1911 with minor variations.

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Informative article on Indian Military law.

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