‘Three-Year Limitation Period Has Expired’: Court-Martial Proceedings Against Army Officer Set Aside By SC

Gavel Law Insider

Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: November 9, 2022 at 19:44 IST

Due to a statute of limitations imposed by Section 122 of the Army Act, the Supreme Court set aside a court-martial against an army officer.

Col. Anil Kumar (the appellant) was accused of sending sexually explicit indecent messages to his wife by a co-worker who claimed to have reason to believe that they had engaged in an illicit physical relationship.

The co-worker’s allegations were made in a letter to the appellant’s superior on August 13, 2015.

In response to this letter, the HQ Delhi Area established a Court of Inquiry, which was ultimately concluded with the instruction to begin disciplinary actions against Col. Anil Kumar.

A prima facie case was established against him following the conclusion of the summary of evidence, and three charges were brought against him in accordance with Section 45 of the Army Act.

The convening authority ordered the general court-martial trial on November 22, 2018.

In order to challenge the charge sheet and the appellant’s instruction of trial by general court-martial, he filed an Original Application with the Armed Forces Tribunal in accordance with Section 14 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.

He brought up a concern over the statute of limitations under Section 122 of the Army Act in the aforementioned application.

He went to the apex court when the tribunal dismissed his OA.

The Apex Court panel took note of the Army Act’s Section 122, which specifies the statute of limitations for trials, in the appeal.

It states that no trial by court-martial of any person subject to the Army Act may begin after the passing of three years.

This period begins on the date of the offence or, in cases where the aggrieved party or the authority competent to initiate action were not aware of the offense’s commission, on the first day on which such person or authority becomes aware of the offence, whichever is earlier.

Therefore, the court remarked, for the purpose of Section 122, the two dates will be relevant, i.e., the date on which the person aggrieved becomes aware of the alleged offence and the date on which the authority competent to commence action becomes aware of the claimed offence.”

Considering the dates involved in this case, the court determined that the date 13.08.2015 would be significant because it was the day the harmed party first learned of the alleged offense’s committed.

“As a result, for the purposes of Section 122 of the aforementioned Act, time had begun to run as of the stated day.”

“In light of this, it is inadmissible to accept the argument made by the experienced senior advocate representing the respondents that the date the complainant learned that the appellant had committed the alleged crime should be interpreted as the day the respondents initially came to the conclusion that this was the case following the Court of Inquiry.”

“Therefore, the date 13.08.2015 would be the day on which Col. Ramneesh Pal Singh, one of the parties who felt wronged, learned that the appellant had allegedly committed the claimed crime.”

“After ordering the General Court Martial trial by order dated November 22, 2018, the Convening Authority made it plain that the trial had been ongoing for longer than three years and was therefore ineligible under Section 122 of the Act,” the court said, adding that the appeal was allowed.

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