Summary Courts Martial is an exception and reasons to convene must be specified by Commanding Officer

Supreme Court: Deciding the question as to whether a Summary Court Martial (SCM) can be convened, constituted and completed by the Commanding Officer (CO) of a Unit to which the accused did not belong, the Court held that SCM is an exception and it is imperative that a case must be made out for immediacy of action.

The bench of T.S. Thakur, CJ and U.U. Lalit, J, affirming the view taken by the Delhi High Court, said that it is not imperative that an SCM be convened, constituted and completed by CO of the Unit to which the accused belonged. It is competent and permissible for the CO of the Unit to which the accused was attached or sent on attachment for the purposes of trial, to try such accused by convening, constituting and completing SCM in a manner known to law i.e. strictly within the confines of Sections 116 and 120 of the Army Act, 1950 and other Statutory provisions. It was further held that the reasons to convene an SCM must be followed by well-articulated reasons or the record itself must justify such resort.

Taking note of the recommendations of a Committee of Experts appointed by the Defence Minister, the Court held the environment may be sensitized that the provision of SCM should be used sparingly and exceptionally and preferably only in operational areas where resort to a regular trial is not practicable or when summary/administrative action would not meet the requirements of discipline and that SCM is an exception and not the rule and was not even originally meant to be a peace-time provision or regular recourse. [Union of India v. Vishav Priya Singh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 658, decided on 05.07.2016]

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