Statutory Law: How a Court Martial is Convened Under Indian Military Law
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Statutory Law: How a Court Martial is Convened Under Indian Military Law

A Court Martial will be convened by the competent authority after a summary of evidence is recorded. A summary of evidence is a written record of evidence against the accused and allows the accused to question witnesses. The questions and answers will be recoded by the summary of evidence. This will be forwarded to Command/ Army HQs which on the advice of the Judge advocate general will order convening of a Court Martial.

Indian military law follows the British laws on the subject. The Indian Army act 1950 is a reprint of the Army act of 1912, which is a modification of the earlier articles of war as enacted by the British rulers. The Army/Air force act 1950 lays down who can convene a court martial. These are specified in Chapter X, section 109 of the act.

The procedure to order a court martial and the decision whether to try an offence under the army act by court martial or summary disposal are spelt out in the Regulations for the Air Force 1969 and corresponding Army regulations. These apply only to General Court Martial (GCM), District Court Martial (DCM) and Summary General Court Martial (SGMC). Summary Courts Martial has an entirely different procedure and do not come under the purview of this procedure.

a)      Once an offence under the act is committed by a person subject to the act, an informal charge sheet is prepared and the case is heard by the CO under Section 82 of the act. At this stage a CO may decide to dismiss the charge or order a summary of evidence against the accused. The decision to decide on summary disposal or order a Summary of evidence will depend on the gravity of the offence.

b)       A summary of evidence is a written record of evidence against the accused. A summary of evidence has the right to call witnesses and record their statements. The accused is at liberty to question the witnesses. The entire proceedings and question answers will be duly recorded

c)       The accused can be helped in the summary of evidence by another officer ‘called friend of the accused’.

d)       The summary of evidence will record the entire proceedings and make its recommendations. These recommendations are important as it will have a bearing on whiter the case is to be tried by a court martial or not.

e)      The summary evidence with all exhibits and statements with the findings will be forwarded by the CO to Command Headquarters where it will be whetted by a Judge advocate and then to Air Head quarters where the Judge Advocate General will examine the evidence available and decide whether the case is fit for trial by a GCM or DCM or SGCM.

The recommendations of the Judge advocate along with the summary of evidence will be put up to the convening authority namely the Chief of Army Staff or other designated officer and he will be the competent authority to convene a court martial.

In some cases a summary of evidence may be preceded by a Court of Inquiry to establish the exact sequence of events. A court of Inquiry will examine all evidence and make recommendation. It may recommend that the evidence be reduced to writing i.e a Summary of evidence be ordered.

A Summary of evidence is an important legal document. In case the accused pleads guilty to the charges leveled against him, the court will direct the prosecutor to read out the summary of evidence. After  the summary of evidence is read out the  court will decide the punishment to be awarded.

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