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Military tribunal gives soldiers right to appeal

Aug 09, 2009 12:53 AM IST India India

New Delhi: Captains R S Rathaur and A K Rana had to fight for 22 years before the Delhi High Court overturned a military court’s decision branding them as Pakistani spies. Rathaur and Rana, who were accused in the infamous Samba spying case, had no right to challenge their court martial. That legal loophole changed on Saturday when the President inaugurated the Armed Forces Tribunal, which has the power to review military judgements. “The tense environment which prevails during operations or in disturbed areas may unconsciously lead to hasty decisions,” said K G Balakrishnan, Chief Justice of India at the tribunal’s inauguration. As military law offered no right of appeal against a court martial sentence, soldiers were flocking to higher civilian judiciary for ad hoc redressal. The Armed Forces Tribunal seeks to correct this by becoming the equivalent of an exclusive higher court of appeal for the armed forces. Over 9,000 cases will be transferred from the High Courts to the principal bench of the tribunal in Delhi, and 8 other regional benches. The Tribunal, which comprises former judges and retired generals, can overturn court martial verdicts, grant bail… and admit petitions challenging dismissals, promotions and matters related to pay and pension The tribunal will give soldiers the same right of appeal as citizens have but some provisions will be out of its purview, like dismissal from service at the pleasure of the President.