Point of Law: Confirmation of Proceedings of a Court Martial Under Indian Army Act 1950
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Point of Law: Confirmation of Proceedings of a Court Martial Under Indian Army Act 1950

All sentences awarded by a court martial under the Army /Navy/ Air Force act 1950 are to be confirmed by the appropriate authority. The confirming authority has power to remit, confirm or order a fresh trial by court martial. Summary Courts Martial requires no confirmation and the sentence can be executed forthwith.

The Army Act 1950 draws its inspiration from the British military laws. The British had earlier enacted the Indian articles of war 1869 which was replaced by the Indian army act 1911. This law was passed when Lord Hardinge of Penshurst was the Governor General of India.

 The Indian Army act 1950 specifies that person’s subject to this act can be tried for offences committed by them by a court martial. A court martial is a military court and its constitution and powers are specified in chapter X section 108 -120.

The army act recognizes 4 types of courts martial namely

a)      General Court Martial (GCM)

b)      District Court Martial (DCM)

c)      Summary General Court Martial (SGCM)

d)      Summary Court Martial.(SCM)

The summary court martial (SCM) is exclusive to the army and does not form part of Air Force or Naval law in India.

 All courts martial have their own jurisdictions which are spelt out under the army act and can award any punishment including death as specified in the act (chapter VII).  All sentences passed by a court martial are to be confirmed. There is no appellate review. This is laid down in Chapter XII of the Army act 1950.

As per section 153 of the act no punishment awarded by a court martial can be executed till it is confirmed by the appropriate authority. In the case of a GCM, DCM, SGCM the appropriate authority is the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) and the central Government. The confirmatory authority may confirm or remit the sentence or order a fresh trial by Court martial.  In such cases the original court will again assemble and retry the offence in the light of the observations made.

  However summary courts martial (SCM) have a peculiar provision. There is no requirement of any confirmation of the sentence awarded by a summary court martial and the sentence as awarded is to be carried out forthwith. This is specified in section 161 of the act. However a limitation is imposed by section 161(2) of the act. It states that a punishment awarded by an Officer Commanding with less than 5 years service in the field will not be carred out till the sentence is reviewed by an Officer Commanding not less than a Brigade.  Thus very junior officers are barred by law in executing a sentence awarded by an SCM.

The Summary Court Martial does not form part of the Unified Military code of the US army and the Air Force and Navy act 1950 in India

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