The Madras High Court Bench in Madurai has held that the armed forces personnel accused of committing murder, rape and other such crimes could be tried in a criminal court and not necessarily through court martial.
The court’s observation came while dismissing a revision petition filed by a Lance Havildar accused of killing his wife while on leave, challenging the order of a Magistrate who refused to transfer the case to an Army court.
Justice A Selvam in his order yesterday said both the criminal court as well as the Army courts enjoyed concurrent jurisdiction to try criminal offences.
The petitioner was accused of killing his wife on Aug 25 last year during his visit to Usilampatti near here on leave.
The judge said that as per Section 70 of the Army Act, a person accused of murder, culpable homicide or rape should not be tried through court martial unless the offence had been committed while he was in active service or at any place outside the country or at a frontier post.
The petitioner had claimed that he should be tried only through a court martial because casual leave comes within the purview of “active service” as held by the Supreme Court in 1995.
Justice Selvam agreed that a soldier on casual leave could be considered to be in active service. However, he said that neither Army act nor the code of criminal procedure prevented a criminal court from conducting trial against servicemen.