The Madras High Court has said that the security forces personnel charged with murder, rape and other such crimes can be tried in a criminal court and not necessarily through court martial.
The court delivered the ruling while quashing a case in which a Lance Havildar accused of killing his wife while on duty had petitioned a revision, challenging the order of a Magistrate who declined to transfer the case to an Army court.
In his order, Justice A Selvam ruled that both the criminal court as well as the Army courts enjoyed concurrent jurisdiction to try criminal offences.
It should be mentioned that the petitioner is accused of killing his wife on Aug 25 last year during his visit to Usilampatti near Madurai 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.