Pre-Emptive Judicial Strikes Against Army's Disciplinary Jurisdiction Unwarranted: SC [Read Judgment]

Pre-Emptive Judicial Strikes Against Army

“An officer subject to the discipline of the Army Act 1950 must abide by the regulations, if the disciplinary jurisdiction is sought to be invoked.”

The Supreme Court has observed that High Court should not preempt the exercise of disciplinary jurisdiction of the Armed forces by taking over the essential function of determining whether or not recourse to the disciplinary jurisdiction was warranted.

The bench comprising Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta was considering appeal filed by Union of India against a Manipur High Court order, which according to it, virtually pre-empts the disciplinary jurisdiction of the competent authority in respect of an officer governed by the Army Act 1950.

In this case, the high court had interfered with an order of attachment, as prescribed under Army Instruction No.30 of 1986, passed against Lt. Colonel Dharamvir Singh. Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against the officer alleging breaches of discipline, violations of the Arms Act 1959, and security and administrative lapses.

The bench observed that Single Judge should have exercised caution and ought to have been circumspect before he proceeded to stay an order of attachment. The court added that having regard to the definition of the expression "service matters" in Section 3(o) of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act 2007 and the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces Tribunal under Section 14, such a Writ Petition ought not to have been entertained by the High Court.

The court also added that an officer subject to the discipline of the Army Act 1950 must abide by the regulations, if the disciplinary jurisdiction is sought to be invoked. Setting aside the High court orders, the bench observed:

"The assumption of jurisdiction by the High Court in a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution was misconceived…. The learned Single Judge should have exercised caution and ought to have been circumspect before he proceeded to stay an order of attachment. Such pre-emptive judicial strikes are unwarranted. The course of action followed by the Single Judge has serious repercussions for the maintenance of discipline in the Army. Discipline is the essence of the organisation and structure of an Armed Force."

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