12 May, 2021

Setting Sail On The High C

An archaic military law is pushing men in uniform to seek redressal in civil courts

Setting Sail On The High C
Are officers and men of the army, navy and air force becoming more litigious than ever before? Until a few years ago, civilian courts rarely entertained petitions from personnel of the defence forces: if they did, it was only in extreme cases. But things seem to have changed at the turn of the century. In the last three years alone, there have been more than 6,300 cases of defence personnel approaching civil courts for justice. A fact that the Union ministry of defence readily confirms.

According to a Delhi High Court official, the capital alone has close to 2,000 cases listed in various stages of hearing. "These days it is not uncommon to see defence personnel in uniform sitting through hearings," he says. The courts too seem willing to lend them a sympathetic ear.

One of the first such cases to hit the headlines was filed by Vice-Admiral Harinder Singh in the Calcutta High Court in 1998. In his petition, Singh alleged that the then naval chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, had given him a negative Annual Confidential Report (ACR) because he was anti-Sikh. The court held it...

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