Offences Relating to the Army, Navy and Air Force

By Raunak Samdani, National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi

Editor’s Note: Chapter VII of the Indian Penal Code deals with offences committed in relation to any defence personnel. This paper discusses the various provisions of the Code which elucidate such offences.

INTRODUCTION

This chapter deals with certain offences which might be committed by the civilian population in relation to the defence service personnel. Since the same acts committed by the latter are punishable severely by the Act to which they are subject, it is provided in section 39 of the Code that they are not punishable under the Code for such acts. The provisions of this chapter are thus in aid and support, from the civilian angle. Of the Army, Navy and Air Force Acts which are designed to maintain perfect discipline in the armed forces of the Union.

The correlation between the offence punishable under this chapter and the offences punishable by court martial under the Army Act, 1950 is as follows;—

  • Sections 131 and 132 of the Code punish abetment of mutiny and attempt to seduce defence service personnel from duty. Mutiny, including any endeavour to seduce such personnel from duty, is a capital offence under section 37 of the Army Act.
  • Sections 133 and 134 of the Code punish abetment of assault by any defence service personnel on any superior officer. Such assault is punishable under section 40 of the Army Act with imprisonment up to 14 years.
  • Sections 135 and 136 of the Code punish abetment of desertion and knowingly harbouring a deserter. Deserting and aiding deserters are punishable in the case of army personnel under section 38 of the Army Act with imprisonment up to 7 years.
  • Section 138 of the Code punishes abetment of an act of insubordination by a defence service personnel. Such insubordination is punishable under section 42 of the Army Act with seven years’ imprisonment.

Section 131:- Abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty

Whoever abets the committing of mutiny by an officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force of the Government of India or attempts to seduce any such officer, soldier, sailor or airman from his allegiance or his duty, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Explanations

  1. In this section the words “officer”, “soldier”, “sailor” and “airman” include any person subject to the 1Army Act, 1the Army Act, 1950 (46 of 1950), the Naval Discipline Act, 1the Indian Navy (Discipline) Act,1934 (34 of 1934) 1the Air Force Act or 1the Air Force Act, 1950 (45 of 1950), as the case may be.

Section 132:- Abetment of mutiny, if mutiny is committed in consequence thereof

Whoever abets the committing of mutiny by an officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force of the Government of India, shall, if mutiny be committed in consequence of that abetment, be punished with death or with imprisonment for life, or imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

While section 131 makes abetment of mutiny punishable with imprisonment for life or with imprisonment of either description upto ten years, section 132 makes such abetment, if mutiny be committed in consequence of that abetment, punishable with death or with imprisonment for life or imprisonment of either description tip to ten years. It would therefore appear that section 131 applies to cases where mutiny is not committed in consequence of the abetment. Section 131 also makes any attempt to seduce any defence service personnel from his allegiance or duty punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment up to ten years.

Section 133:- Abetment of assault by soldier, sailor or airman on his superior officer, when in execution of his office

Whoever abets an assault by an officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force of the Government of India, on any superior officer being in the execution of his office, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 134:- Abetment of such assault, if the assault committed

Whoever abets an assault by an officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force of the Government of India, on any superior officer being in the execution of his office, shall, if such assault be committed in consequence of that abetment be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Both sections 133 and 134 deal with abetment of assault by defence service personnel on any superior officer beingin the execution of his office, the former section presumably providing for cases where such assault is not committed in pursuance of the abetment and the latter for cases where the assault is socommitted.

Section 135:- Abetment of desertion of soldier, sailor or airman

Whoever, abets the desertion of any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force of the Government of India, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Differing from the previous sections, section 135 does not distinguish between cases where the abetment of desertionis successful and where it is unsuccessful. In either case, themaximum punishment prescribed in section 135 is imprisonmentof either description for two years. Under section 3 of theArmy Act and the corresponding sections of the Navy and Air
Force Acts, desertion while on active service is punishable with death and in other cases, with seven years’ imprisonment.

Section 136:- Harbouring deserter

Whoever, except as hereinafter excepted, knowing or having reason to believe that an officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force of the Government of India, has deserted, harbours such officer, soldier, sailor or airman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or with both.

Exceptions

This provision does not extend to the case in which the harbour is given by a wife to her husband.

Section 137:- Deserter concealed on board merchant vessel through negligence of master

The master or person in charge of a merchant vessel, on board of which any deserter from the Army, Navy or Air Force of the Government of India is concealed, shall, though ignorant of such concealment, be liable to a penalty not exceeding five hundred rupees, if he might have known of such concealment but for some neglect of his duty as such master or person in charge, or but for some want of discipline on board of the vessel.

Section 138:- Abetment of act of insubordination by soldier, sailor or airman

Whoever abets what he knows to be an act of insubordination by an officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or air Force, of the Government of India, shall, if such act of insubordination be committed in consequence of that abetment, be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

Section 137 makes the master or person in charge or amerchant vessel, on board of which any deserter is concealed, liable to a “penalty” not exceeding five hundred rupees, evenwhen he is ignorant of such concealment, if he might have known of such concealment but for some neglect of duty on his part.It is curious that the section uses the word “penalty” instead ofthe usual word “fine”. The object is presumably to debar thecourt convicting the offender from imposing any sentence ofimprisonment in default of payment of the “penalty”.

Section 138 deals with abetment of an act of insubordination by an officer or member of the armed forces, but only if the act of insubordination is committed in consequence of theabetment. The section should also provide for cases where the act of insubordination is not committed in consequence ofthe abetment. Considering that an act of insubordination ispunishable with seven years’ imprisonment under section 42 of the Army Act (and if such insubordination consists in disobedience of a superior officer, punishable with fourteen years’ imprisonment). The punishment provided in section 138 appearsto be low.

Section 138A:- (Repealed) Application of foregoing sections to the Indian Marine Service.

Rep. by the Amending Act, 1934 (35 of 1934), s. 2 and Sch.

Section 139:- Persons subject to certain Acts

No person subject to the Army Act, the Army Act, 1950 (46 of 1950), the Naval Discipline Act, the Indian Navy (Discipline) Act, 1934 (34 of 1934), the Air Force Act or the Air Force Act, 1950 (45 of 1950), is subject to punishment under this Code for any of the offences defined in this Chapter.

Section 140:- Wearing garb or carrying token used by soldier, sailor or airman

Whoever, not being a soldier, sailor or airman in the Military, Naval or Air service of the Government of India, wears any garb or carries any token resembling any garb or token used by such a soldier, sailor or airman with the intention that it may be believed that he is such a soldier, sailor or airman, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.

PROPOSALS FOR REFORM

The Fifth Law Commission has offered a set of significant proposals for reform in the Chapter to make it more relevant and comprehensive. A few prominent points for proposal are:

  • With a view to widening the scope of the Chapter, the Law Commission suggested that the Chapter should not only be confined to Army, Navy and Air Force but should also be extended to all other armed forces of the Union of India. It, accordingly recommended the present caption of the Chapter Offences Relating to the Army, Navy and Air Force should be changed to Offences Relating to Armed Force and that the key expressions, ‘armed forces’, ‘officer’ and ‘member’ should be comprehensively defined in the proposed new S. 130A.
  • Referring to the kinds and quantum of punishment provided for abetment to mutiny, not committed in consequence thereof or otherwise, and for attempt to seduce a defence personnel (ss. 131 & 132, IPC), it opined that the punishment of imprisonment for life provided for abetment to mutiny that is not committed in consequence of the abetment and for an attempt to seduce defence service personnel is unduly harsh. It suggested that abetment of mutiny by an officer or a member of armed forces should be punished with: (a) with death or imprisonment for life or with rigorous imprisonment for a term up to fourteen years (in lieu of the existing ten years), if mutiny is committed in pursuance of the abetment and (b) with rigorous imprisonment for a term up to ten years, if mutiny is not committed in pursuance of the abetment. An attempt tos seduce an officer or member of the armed forces from his duty, it opined, should be made punishable by rigorous imprisonment for a term up to ten years with fine.
  • Noticing that s. 135 of the Code, dealing with abetment of desertion, unlike other provisions of the same chapter, does not distinguish between cases where the abetment of desertion is successful and where it is unsuccessful and it, in either case, provides for imprisonment for a term up to two years, the Commission, in the light of punishment provided for desertion under the Army, the Navy and the Air Force Acts, feels that the punishment provided s. 135 be increased to five years’ imprisonment in cases where desertion takes place in consequence of the abetment.
  • It is also recommended an enhancement of punishment (from imprisonment for a term up to six months to for a term up to two years) in case of abetment of an act of insubordination when the abetment is successil.
  • It recommended deletion of existing s. 137, holding the master or a person in chaege of a merchant vessel on board o which a deserter is concealed due to neglect of duty of such a master or person, as it ‘does not appear to be of any consequence’.
  • It suggested that two new provision, s. 138 A and 138 B, dealing respectively with inciting mutiny or an act of insubordination and dissuading from recruitment to armed forces, be added to the present chapter. Both the proposed offences should be made punishable with simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term up to three years, or with fine, or with both.

The Indian Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 1978, premised on recommendations of the Fifth Law Commission, gives effect to these proposals for reform.

The Fourteenth Law Commission has not only endorsed the proposed reforms but also approved contents of the 1978 Bill incorporating those suggestions.

However, these proposals are not yet transformed into statutory provisions as the 1978 Amendment Bill lapsed in 1978 due to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha during that year.

 Edited by Sinjini Majumdar

3 Replies to “Offences Relating to the Army, Navy and Air Force”

  1. I wanted to know about laws on ” stealing the affection of fellow officer’s wife”. Can you help me
    Please reply on my mail

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