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Updated: September 28, 2009 17:24 IST

Supreme Court asks army to follow rules in court martial proceedings

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Supreme Court of India. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
Supreme Court of India. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

The Indian Army has to give mandatory four days time to a jawan (soldier) before court martial him for any offence, the country’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday.

Rejecting the central government’s argument that the Rule 34 of the Army, which mandates a 96-hour gap between the time of charge and actual trial, was merely directory and not mandatory, the Supreme Court ruled that a jawan has to be given the mandatory 96 hours time.

The apex court made the observation in a judgment dismissing the Union government’s appeal which had challenged acquittal of A. K. Pandey of 12 Corps Signal Regiment, Jodhpur, who was dismissed from service and sentenced to three years in jail by court martial proceedings on Nov. 6, 1995.

“A trial before the General Court Martial (Army court) entails grave consequences. The accused may be sentenced to suffer imprisonment. He may be dismissed from service,” the Supreme Court observed.

“The consequences that may follow from non-observance of the time interval provided in Rule 34 being grave and severe, we hold, as it must be that the said provision is absolute and mandatory,” a three judge bench of Justices B.N. Agrawal, Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha said.

The charge against Pandey was that he had illegally sold a country-made pistol and one round of ammunition to another signalman J.N. Narsimilu of the same unit.

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