Court-Martial|What is a Court-Martial in Indian Army|

By | January 3, 2020

Court Martial Meaning

Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breakdown of military discipline may have occurred. When a trial is conducted by a military court it is called court-martial. In other words “A court-martial or court-martial is a military court or a trial conducted in such a court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment. In addition, courts-martial may be used to try prisoners of war for war crimes.

Court-Martial definition

Simply Court-Martial is a court of personnel in the armed forces for the trial of persons accused of breaking military law.

Court-Martial in the Indian Army

The Indians were not only willing to join the Sepoy Army, but the sepoys and the sowars were also generally well behaved. Not overapplication of violence, but rather the lack of it, was the characteristic of the disciplinary infrastructure of the army. How and why was the colonial army able to maintain ‘order’ among its personnel?

The Judicial system in the military generally is on the same pattern as the Civil. However unlike the Civil system, Indian military does not have any standing courts for dispensation of justice.

With respect to military personnel, all offences committed by him may be tried by a military court except murder and rape. Even these may be tried by a military court in case the offence is committed in field/ operational area or against another person covered by the Act. The jurisdiction whether it will be military or civil court will be decided by the military. In case of dispute, the matter may be referred to the Central Govt.

Court-Martial types

There are 4 types of Court Martials:-

1- General Court Martial- General Court Martial GCM) is convened by Major General and above officers exercising Command powers ie Divisional commanders and above vested with such powers specifically. A GCM convened by an appropriate authority can try all ranks ie for a Lt General it has to be COAS. The court will have 5 officers with JAG officer named specifically. All 5 officers have to be senior in rank or equal to the accused.

2-District Court Martial- District Court Martials( DCM) are convened for the trial of personnel up to Junior Commissioned ranks. It is convened by Brigadiers in Command vested with such powers specifically. There will be a minimum three officers as judges appointed by name with a Judge Advocate branch officer in attendance. Out of three officers, the senior-most is the Presiding Officer. Dismissal and up to 3 years imprisoned may be awarded.

3- Summary Court Martial- A Summary Court Martial can be ordered only by the Commanding Officer of the individual ( sepoy to Havildar only ) of minimum Lt Col rank. The CO convenes the court, then himself becomes the judge, examines the accused and witnesses and can award punishment the highest of which is dismissal from service with one-year imprisonment.

4- Summary General Court Martial- Summary General Court Martial takes place in operational areas/war by isolated detachments. Minimum of three officers constitute the court. The trial is swift and even death sentence may be awarded for cases involving treason, desertion of a post, sleeping on sentry duty etc. In war, there will be no appeal and sentence carried out by firing squad forthwith.

What is Court-Martial Punishment


Compared with other non-national multiracial forces like the Austro-Hungarian Army, the Indian Army’s penal system was much less severe. This was partly because, unlike the former force, the Indian Army relied on volunteers. In the late Victorian Army, punishment became less harsh. Towards the end of the 19th century, a shift occurred in the attitude of the British Army towards its personnel. Instead of being viewed as the ‘scum of the earth’, the British soldiers were perceived as working men with special skills. 10

Court-Martial book by Swadesh Deepak

‘स्वदेश तुम कहां गुम हो गए…’ कृष्णा सोबती|
यह स्वदेश दीपक की सात साल लंबी बीमारी के अनुभवों का दस्तावेज है। इसमें कुछ भी सिलसिलेवार नहीं है, क्योंकि ये खंडित साल हैं। यह किताब न तो बाहरी समय का इतिहास है और न ही किसी मेडिकल जर्नल के लिए लिखा गया पेपर। नौ खंडों में विभाजित इस कृति की विशिष्टता है सच का सामना करने के लिए चुनी गई कोलाज शैली, जो शब्दों के मोंताज, नाटकीय संवादों और विभिन्न कालखंडों में एक साथ यात्रा करती हुई काव्यात्मक तनाव को कभी बिखरने नहीं देती। ये कोलाज एक अंधेरी सुरंग में स्वदेश दीपक के सफर की कहानी कहते हैं, जिनसे वे न सिर्फ बाहर आए, बल्कि पलट कर उस सुरंग को देखने और उसका ब्योरा देने का साहस भी जुटा पाए।

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