Armed Forces Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear the appeals arising out of court martial verdicts qua GREF personnel

Supreme Court: Deciding the question as to the scope of power of Armed Forces Tribunal to hear the appeals arising out of court martial verdicts qua GREF personnel, the Court held that denial of jurisdiction to the said tribunal would be contrary to the Army Act, 1950 and the provisions engrafted under the Armed Forces Tribunals Act, 2007. It was held that the right to approach the AFT by the personnel of GREF who are tried by a court martial held under the very same Act has to be recognized. It was, however, clarified, that at the same time if the punishment is imposed on GREF personnel by way of departmental proceedings held under the CCS(CCA) Rules, 1965 the same cannot be agitated before the AFT and AFT shall have no jurisdiction to hear and decide grievances of GREF personnel relating to their terms and conditions of service or alternatively put ‘service matters’.

The bench of Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit, JJ explained that the 2007 Act has been made applicable to persons subject to the Army Act, 1950, the Navy Act, 1957 and the Air Force Act, 1950, the retired personnel subject to these Acts including their dependants, heirs and successors insofar as it relates to their service matters. The tribunal constituted in terms of Sections 4 and 5 thereof, is vested with twin jurisdiction viz., jurisdiction, powers and authority in service matters as provided in Section 14 and the jurisdiction in matter of appeal against courts martial under Section 15 of the Act.

It was further stated that the 1950 Act and the Army Rules, 1954 have been applied to civilian personnel of the GREF only for the purpose of discipline. The reasons are obvious. The GREF is a force raised and maintained under the authority of the Central Government, its units are set up on the lines of the Indian Army, it works with and under close coordination with regular army in border areas, facilitates the Indian Army to carry out its operational role, etc. Hence, it has been felt appropriate that the 1950 Act should be made applicable to a force raised and maintained by the Central Government as considered necessary in the interest of discipline. The issue can be perceived from a different perspective. The GREF personnel are subjected by legislative scheme to dual disciplinary control, and such an arrangement is permissible

Hence, if an offence is committed in relation to an enemy, offences on active service, mutiny, desertion, disobedience, etc., considering the nature and gravity of the offence, it may warrant severe action against the delinquent by way of trial by a court martial. In other disciplinary cases, the competent authority may decide to proceed under CCS(CCA) Rules, 1965 in which the maximum permissible punishment is only ‘dismissal from service’. [Mohammed Ansari v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 83, decided on 02.02.2017]

 

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