Procedure of Conducting a Court Martial in the Indian Air Force

A court martial in the Indian Air Force is a military court to try offences under the Air Force act 1950. It will be convened under orders of the Chief of Air Staff and will specify the names of members, the prosecutor and defending officer. It will also mention the place and date of its assembly

A  Court martial is a military court to try offenders who are subject to the Indian Air Force Act 1950. A court martial under air force law draws its powers from the IAF act 1950, which is a reprint of the Air Force act 1932.

 The procedure to convene a court martial is contained in the Regulations for the Air Force 1969 read in conjunction with the Air Force act 1950( Chapter X) and Air Force order (AFO) 04/95.

The first step towards the convening of a court martial under AF Act 1950 is the framing of an informal charge sheet. An informal charge sheet will only state the offence and the accused will be marched before the Commanding Officer who will hear the charge .In case the CO feels that charge is to pressed  further he will order that the evidence be reduced to writing. He will order a Summary of Evidence.

a)      The Summary of Evidence is a written record of evidence against the accused. In this the statements of the witnesses and the accused will be recorded. The accused will be at liberty to cross examine any witness and the questions and answers will be duly recorded. The summary of evidence in its original form will be presented to the presiding officer of the court martial at the time of trial.

b)      The summaryof  evidence will be forwarded to Air Headquarters where it will be  examined by the Judge Advocate Generals branch ( JAG). In case the summary points to an infringement of any proviso of the Air force act 1950 a formal charge sheet will be prepared.

c)       Formal charge sheet will give the substance of the offence as well as specifically mention by section the crime committed under AF act 1950.  

 The next step is issuing the convening order.  This will be issued by Air Headquarters in the case of a General Court martial and Command Headquarters in the case of a District Court Martial. The convening order will be signed by the Chief of Air Staff or the Air Officer Commanding in Chief respectively. The convening order will have the following information

a)      Rank, name and number of the accused.

b)      Names of members of the court martial. The senior most officer will preside over the court martial.

c)      Names of the prosecutor and defending officer.

d)      Name of the officer from the Judge Advocate Branch who will advise the court on the legal provisions.

e)      Place and date of assembly of the court martial.

The court will assemble at the place and time specified and the members of the court will be sworn in by the Judge Advocate. The accused will be put in close arrest during the period of the trial. He will attend court without cap and belt.

In case the accused pleads guilty, the summary of evidence will be read out and the punishment awarded. In case the accused pleads not guilty the charge will be heard by the court. Witnesses will be summoned and the defending officer will have liberty to cross examine them.

At the end of the trial the court will deliberate on the sentence and verdict in private. Once a verdict is reached the accused will be marched in and awarded the punishment as specified in the Air Force act 1950. The court martial is not required to give any written judgment like in civil court. The punishment is also are not subject to any review. It is only subject to confirmation by the Chief of Air Staff (CAS). There is no relief to an accused to appeal to the Supreme Court or the High Court except on a procedural point of conduct of the court martial.


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