Discipline Remains the Fundamental Pillar of Armed Forces: Supreme Court Upholds AFT’s Dismissal Order

Armed Forces Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: 31 July 2023 at 11:35 IST

In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in Lucknow, which resulted in the dismissal from service of an appellant who was found guilty under Section 39(b) of the Army Act, 1950.

The appellant, a Mechanical Transport Driver in the Army Service Corps since January 4, 1983, was charged with overstaying his granted leave without sufficient cause.

The bench, comprising of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Rajesh Bindal, emphasized the critical importance of discipline in the Armed Forces.

The court expressed that such gross indiscipline displayed by the appellant, who repeatedly sought condonation for prolonged leave absences, could not be tolerated.

Allowing such behavior would set the wrong example for other service members, considering that discipline is an implicit hallmark and an essential non-negotiable condition of service within the Armed Forces.

The case revolved around the appellant’s initial leave granted for 39 days from November 8, 1998, to December 16, 1998, with an extension allowed for 30 additional days in 1999 due to compassionate grounds.

Despite this, the appellant failed to return promptly, leading to a Court of Inquiry on February 15, 1999, under Section 106 of the Army Act.

The Court declared the appellant a deserter effective from January 16, 1999.

Ultimately, after a prolonged absence of 108 days, the appellant surrendered on May 3, 1999, at HQ Wing, ASC Centre (South), Bangalore. Following the Summary of Evidence, a Summary Court Martial (SCM) found the appellant guilty and handed down the punishment of dismissal from service.

The appellant appealed under Section 164 of the Army Act, but the appeal was dismissed by respondent No. 2. The appellant then approached the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad, and the matter was transferred to the AFT, which upheld the dismissal order.

The appellant argued that the punishment of dismissal was disproportionate to the offense committed. However, the Court disagreed, stating that the SCM had the discretion to impose a higher punishment based on the circumstances of the case.

The Court cited Sections 72 and 73 of the Army Act, which provide such discretion to the Court Martial.

The contention that these provisions were not applicable to a SCM was deemed without merit.

Consequently, the bench dismissed the appeal, affirming the significance of discipline as the bedrock of the Armed Forces and highlighting that violations of this principle cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.

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