Understanding the concept of Quantum of Punishment in Court Martial Trails

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Ex. Naik Sardar Singh vs Union Of India And Others[1]

Ipsita Rout, 4th Year, KIIT School of LAW
Curated by Nandita Mishra, Chanakya National Law University

BACKGROUND
In the current case the author attempts to lift the curtain on a court martial case of an Army Jawan who is charged with carrying liquor outside the premises of the base without permit. Was he liable for the charges? What provision was he charged under? And how did he plead in this case? The answer to all your questions lay at the end of this article. This case is an example of two things- Firstly, the shift of a case from the Summary Court Martial Trial to High Court to the Supreme Court of India. Secondly, the understanding of the quantum of punishment justifiable by law in Court Martial Trial.
PARTIES TO THIS CASE
The petitioner of this case is Ex. Naik Sadar Singh[2], and the Respondent is the Union of India & Others.
A SHORT NOTE ON THE FACTS OF THE CASE
X had to attend a family function for which he had brought 12 liquor bottles from the csd canteen, and was caught in a police area where his liquor bottles were confiscated. After checking it was found that he was carrying 7 extra liquor bottles without permit. The Summary Court trial sentenced him to 3 months of rigorous imprisonment and he was further dismissed from the service. X made a case of sparkling record with the army for 10 years, and said that an incorrect sentence had been passed against him, further, the proceedings of the summary trial had irregularities and were not conducted in prescribed order and took the case to Delhi High Court. The High court accepted X’s writ petition and looked into the matter, & gave the order that X’s plea of proceedings not being conducted in reasonable order was false after the scrutiny of all the evidence collected in the former trial. However, the high court did concur to his plea that the punishment was harsher in nature and a remand of a lesser sentence as per section 72 of the Army Code of 1950. X then went on to file a Special leave petition in the Hon’ble Supreme court of India and which was accepted.
PROVISIONS OF THE CASE
SECTION 63, 71 & 72 of the Army Code of 1950.
This case is a manifestation of the offence by X under Section 63 which deals with the violation of good order and discipline under the code. Section 71 which deals with the punishments of situations where the court-martial trial awards possible punishments, holds clauses ‘a’ to ‘f’, which is important for the establishment that, the quantum of punishment varies from circumstance to circumstance, and it is the duty of the court martial to award appropriate punishment. It is important to note that Section 63 cannot be passed without keeping in mind the spirit of Section 72 of the code, which provides for alternative punishments by the court-martial after construing that the degree of the offence was low in its nature.
RELEVANT CASES IN LIEU OF THE FINAL DECISION
Ranjit Thakur v. Union of India and Others (1987), Bhagat Ram v. State of Himachal Pradesh (1983), & Council of Civil Service Unions v. Minister for the Civil Service, (1984).
DECISION BY THE COURT
The final judgement of this case was passed by Judge K. Jayachandra Reddy of the Hon’ble Supreme court of India. The court held that X was just a man who had bad luck on the day where he was caught by the civil police. He was in possession of eleven bottles of sealed rum & one of brandy, where he could only show the record of 5 validly purchased liquor. He must have had referral/chits by the higher authority to obtain the other bottles, otherwise, it was impossible for him to have them under his possession. In lieu of all the circumstances of the case, Judge Reddy, ordered the Court-martial to reinstate him in the army and his dismissal was cancelled under Section 72. However, he was awarded a lesser punishment as deemed fit to his circumstance under Section 63, but it was held that the award of 3 months of rigorous imprisonment and dismissal of service under Section 71 was too harsh a punishment in X’s case by the court-martial. The case was then dismissed.
ANALYSIS
This case is an extraordinary precedent to show that there are degrees to the quantum of punishment in court martial trials just like criminal law crimes. One can compare the degrees of murder and the execution of justice carried out in this beautifully written judgement by Judge Reddy. This case is an example of holding the incorrect behaviour responsible and also keeping in mind that the impact of all incorrect behaviour however, in the light of bad is to be punished but, at the same time, it also is to be scrutinized in lieu of the nature of the offence committed by a person. After understanding the facts and the judgement given in this case, the author would like to conclude that the justification given by the bench holds valid as, the dismissal of service of the appellant was a harsher punishment for being caught in a police area. And reinstating the appellant alongside guaranteeing a lesser punishment was the right track of carrying justice in a court martial trial in pursuance of Section 63, 71& 72 of the Army Code. 1950.

[1] 1992 AIR 417, 1991 SCR (2) 676.
[2] Here and after for the purposes of this article named X.

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