ARMY ACT, 1950

Subject Matter

Relevant Section

Key Issues

Citation Details

Summary Judgment

Recruitment of “females” into the Army.

Section 10: The President may grant a commission as an officer, or as a junior commissioned officer or appoint any person as a warrant officer of the regular Army, as he thinks fit.
Section 12: No female shall be eligible for enrollment or employment in the regular Army, except in such corps, department, branch or other body forming part of, or attached to any portion of, the regular Army as the Central Government may specify.

a. Whether women should be granted Permanent Commission in the Indian Army?

b. What are the conditions governing the Women Officers in the Indian Army?

The Secretary, Ministry of Defence vs. Babita Puniya and Ors. (17.02.2020 - SC): MANU/SC/0194/2020

Facts: In 1992, the Central government issued a notification allowing females to join certain cadres of the army like induction in Short Service Commission. So in February 2003, Babita Puniya, a practising advocate, filed a writ petition in the nature of public interest litigation at Delhi High Court, seeking permanent commission for female officers recruited through SSC in the army, at par with their male counterparts. Then in 2008, the centre decided to grant permanent commission to SSC women officers in some departments such as the Army Education Corps. Afterwards the appealnt approached with other arguments to the court along with the isuue that border areas lack very basic and minimal facilities and thus the deployment of women officers in such areas is not advisable because of habitat and hygiene.
Held: a. It was held that policy decision taken by the Union allowing the women officers in PCs through SSC are subject to some conditions that all the women officers presently on SSC service are eligible to PCs irrespective of any of them crossed fourteen years of service or, as the case may be, twenty years of service.

b. All the choices of specialization shall be available to the women officers at the time of opting for the grant in PCs, on the same terms as their male counterparts and so necessary steps should be taken for the compliance of the court’s decision within three months of the judgment.

Dismissal, removal or reduction by the Chief of the Army Staff and by other officers.

Section 20: The Chief of the Army Staff may dismiss or remove from the service any person subject to this Act, other than an officer; may reduce to a lower grade or rank or the ranks, any warrant officer or any non-commissioned officer.

Whether impugned order of dismissal from service was sustainable?

Sanjay Marutirao Patil vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. (24.01.2020 - SC): MANU/SC/0080/2020

Facts: Appellant joined Indian Army as Sepoy and was promoted as Naik. He was served with charge sheet levelling three charges of misconduct. He was called upon to face Summary Court Martial. Summary Court Martial proceedings were completed and Appellant was awarded with punishment of reduction in rank. Thereafter Appellant was served with show cause notice as to why he should not be discharged from Army service under provisions of Section 20 of Act read with Rule 17 of Rules, 1954. He replied to said show cause notice and denied allegations made therein. Thereafter Respondents terminated Appellant's services. Feeling aggrieved, Appellant preferred appeal, which came to be rejected. Thereafter Appellant approached High Court whereby High Court had dismissed writ petition and had refused to interfere with order of dismissal. Hence, present appeal.

Held: While treating and considering the offences as fraudulent in nature and thereafter giving an opportunity to the Appellant and having been satisfied that the Appellant cannot be continued in service, the order of dismissal had been passed by Respondent No. 3 in exercise of powers under Section 20 of the Army Act read with Rule 17 of the Army Rules. Therefore, the order of dismissal passed could not be said to be violative of the principle of double jeopardy. The order of dismissal in the present case was specifically passed under Section 20 of the Army Act. Therefore, the justification of the order of dismissal which was the subject matter of the present appeal was not sustainable. However, order of dismissal which was the subject matter before the High Court and even before this Court which had been passed under Section 20 of the Army Act read with Rule 17 of the Army Rules was just, proper, legal and valid and the same was rightly not interfered by the High Court.

Immunity from arrest for debt.

Section 29: No person subject to this Act shall, so long as he belongs to the Forces, be liable to be arrested for debt under any process issued by, any civil or revenue court or revenue officer. The judge of any such court may examine into any complaint of the arrest of such person contrary to the provisions of this section and may, by warrant under his hand, discharge the person, and award reasonable costs to the complainant, who may recover those costs in like manner as he might have recovered costs awarded to him by a decree against the person obtaining the process.

Whether the petitioner was entitled to the benefit of Section 29 of the Army Act?

Chitraketu Singh vs. State of U.P. and Ors. (30.01.1973 - ALLHC): MANU/UP/0138/1973

Facts: The honorary rank of 2nd Lieutenant in regular army was conferred on the appellant under the order of the President of India to the petitioner. Certain dues towards Land Revenue and Taqavi etc., were due from him and the State Government took steps to realise them as arrears of land revenue. Not only were steps taken to attach his property but warrant was also issued for his arrest. It was then that he moved the present writ petition asking for the quashing of the warrant of arrest on the ground that he was entitled to the benefit of Section 29 of the Army Act read with Rule 249 of U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Rules.

Held: Even though that Army Act has been repealed there is Section 29 in the Army Act, 1950 granting immunity from arrest for debt to persons subject to the Army Act for so long as they belong to the Forces. The term 'Forces' is defined as the regular army. Consequently, the appellant is entitled to the protection of Section 29 of the Army Act, 1950 for so long as he is an officer of the regular army and in that capacity belongs to the Forces i.e., the regular army. Nothing has been brought to our notice which may show that the President's order appointing the petitioner to the honorary rank of 2nd Lieutenant in the regular army has been withdrawn. As he holds the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and is attached to 9th Jat Regiment, and also because he is entitled to all the privileges of such 2nd Lieutenant he is entitled to immunity from arrest as laid down in Section 29 of the Army Act, 1950.

Power to modify certain fundamental rights.

Section 21: Subject to the provisions of any law for the time being in force relating to the regular Army or to any branch thereof, the Central Government may make rules restricting to such extent and in such manner as may be necessary the right of any person subject to this Act--
(a) to be a member of, or to be associated in any way with, any trade union or labour union;
(b) to attend or address any meeting or to take part in any demonstration for any political or other purposes;
(c) to communicate with the press or to publish any book, letter or other document.

Whether the use of certain social networking sites by defence personnel enables enemy countries to gain an edge?

P.K. Choudhary vs. Union of India and Ors. (05.08.2020 - DELHC): MANU/DE/1499/2020

Facts: The petition has been filed, pleading that the petitioner is currently posted in Jammu & Kashmir and is an active user of Facebook and uses the said platform inter-alia to connect with his friends and family. Hence, the petitioner, a Lieutenant Colonel with the Indian Army, is seeking a writ of mandamus directing the respondents to withdraw their policy to the extent that it bans the petitioner and other members of the Indian Army from using social networking platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Held: The court held that the warfare and inter-country rivalries and animosities today are not confined to accession of territory and destruction of installations and infrastructure of enemy countries but also extend to influencing and affecting the economies and political stability of enemy country including by inciting civil unrest and disturbance and influencing the political will of the citizens of the enemy country. In such a scenario, if the government, after complete assessment, has concluded that permitting use of certain social networking websites by personnel of its defence forces is enabling the enemy countries to gain an edge, the Courts would be loath to interfere and the petition is dismissed.

Choice between criminal court and court-martial.

Section 69: Any person subject to this Act who at any place in or beyond India, commits any civil offence, shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence against this Act and, if charged therewith under this section, shall be liable to be tried by a court-martial and, on conviction, be punishable under this Act.
Section 125: When a criminal court and a court-martial have each jurisdiction in respect of an offence, it shall be in the discretion of the commanding officer to whom the accused person is reporting or such other officer as may be prescribed to decide before which court the proceedings shall be instituted.

Whether the fundamental rights of the petitioner are voilated under the principles of natural justice?

Prithi Pal Singh Bedi and Ors. vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. MANU/SC/0233/1982

Facts: The petitioner in each of the three writ petitions who was to be tried by general court martial for breach of army discipline questioned the legality and validity of the order convening the general court martial, more particularly its Composition. It was contended on behalf of the petitioners that to satisfy the requirements there must be a specific law enacted by Parliament imposing restriction or even abrogation of fundamental rights, so that the Army is assured the prized liberty of individual members against unjust encroachment. The court should strike a just balance between military discipline and individual personal liberty; and principles of natural justice should be observed even in respect of persons tried by the Army Tribunals.
Held: The court observed that Courts Martial did not even write a brief reason in those cases in which they impose the death sentence. This must be remedied in order to ensure that a disciplined and dedicated Indian Army may not nurse a grievance that the substance of justice and fair play is denied to it. The constitutional validity of the Army Rule are not violative of the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under the Constitution .Thus petition is dismissed.

Application of the Act to certain forces under Central Government; Power to modify certain fundamental rights in their application to persons subject of this Act; Violation of good order and discipline.

Section 4(1): The Central Government may, apply all or any of the provisions of this Act to any force raised and maintained in India under the authority of that Government and suspend the operation of any other enactment for the time being applicable to the said force.
Section 21: Subject to the provisions of any law for the time being in force relating to the regular Army or to any branch thereof, the Central Government may make rules restricting to such extent and in such manner as may be necessary the right of any person subject to this Act--
(a) to be a member of, or to be associated in any way with, any trade union or labour union;
(b) to attend or address any meeting or to take part in any demonstration for any political or other purposes;
(c) to communicate with the press or to publish any book, letter or other document.
Section 63: Any person subject to this Act who is guilty of any act or omission which, though not specified in this Act, is prejudicial to good order and military discipline shall, by court-martial, be liable to suffer imprisonment for a term of upto seven years.

a. Whether section 21 of Army Act, 1950 is constitutionally valid and saved by Art. 33?

b. Whether GREF is 'force' within the meaning of sub section (1) and (4) of section 4 of Army Act, 1950?

c. Whether members of GREF are members of 'Armed Forces' within the meaning of Article 33 of Constitution?

R. Viswan and Ors. v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. MANU/SC/0338/1983

Facts: The petitioners who belonged to the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) were charged under section 63 of the Army Act, 1950 on allegations inter-alia that they had assembled in front of the Chief Engineer and demanded release of personnel placed under arrest, participated in a black flag demonstration and associated themselves with an illegal association. They were tried by Court Martial in accordance with the prescribed procedure and, on being convicted, were dismissed from service. The petitioners submitted that their convictions by Court Martial were illegal and raised the contentions in support of their plea that the GREF was a civilian construction agency and not a 'force' raised and maintained under the authority of the Central Government and consequently, the members of GREF were not "members of Armed Forces or the Forces charged with the maintenance of public order" within the meaning of Art. 33 of the Constitution and therefore the application of s. 21 of the Army Act or the Army Rules to them were unconstitutional.
Held: a. Section 21 empowers the Central Government by notification to make rules restricting "to such extent and in such manner as may be necessary" three categories of rights of any person subject to the Army Act 1950. These rights which are permitted to be restricted are part of the Fundamental Rights under Clauses (a), (b) and (c) of Article 19(1) and under the constitutional scheme, they cannot be restricted by executive action unsupported by law. Now here we find that Section 21 does not itself impose any restrictions on the three categories of rights there specified. Section 21 cannot be condemned as invalid on this ground, as it is saved by Article 33 which permits the enactment of such a provision.

b. The word "force" is not defined anywhere in the Army Act, 1950. Section 4, Sub-section (2) clearly contemplates that the "force" referred to in Sub-section (1) of Section 4 must be a force organised on similar lines as the army with rank structure. So far as GREF is concerned, there can be no doubt that it is a force organised on army pattern with units and sub units and rank structure.
c. The result is that the directly recruited GREF personnel are governed by the provisions of Central Civil Service (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules 1965 as amended from time to time but for purposes of discipline, they are subject to certain provisions of the Army Act 1950 and the Army Rules 1954. We may make it clear it is only in regard to the members of GREF that we have taken the view that they are members of the Armed Forces within the meaning of Article 33.

NAVY ACT, 1957

Eligibility for appointment or enrollment.

Section 9(2): No woman shall be eligible for appointment or enrollment in the Indian Navy or the Indian Naval Reserve Forces except in such department, branch or other body forming part thereof or attached thereto and subject to such conditions as the Central Government may by notification in the Official Gazette, specify in this behalf.

Whether women in Indian Navy are entitled to Permanent Commission?

Union of India (UOI) and Ors. vs. Annie Nagaraja and Ors. (17.03.2020 - SC)

Facts: The Ministry of Defence issued a policy letter granting PCs to SSC officers in all the three branches of the Armed Forces. However, the offer was restricted to certain categories and was to operate prospectively for the benefit of future batches inducted on SSCs. The High Court held that the claim of absorption in areas of operation not open for recruitment of women officers could not be sustained being a policy decision. Thereafter in similar matters, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) disagreed with the direction of the High Court for the grant of PCs and directed the authorities to consider the cases of the SSC officers for the grant of PCs. However, the AFT directed that until such consideration was made and a decision was taken, the applicants before it would be allowed to continue as SSC officers on existing terms and conditions as applicable to them.
Held: It was directed that female SSC officers of the ATC cadre in this case are not entitled to consideration for the grant of PCs since neither men nor women SSC officers are considered for the grant of PCs and there is no direct induction of men officers to PCs. In exercise of the power conferred by Article 142 of the Constitution, it is to direct that as a one-time measure, SSC officers in the ATC cadre in this case shall be entitled to pensionary benefits.