Military Law Literature in India

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This article is about military law literature in India.


Military law provisions govern the role of India Army during peace and war formulated in the form of Statutes, Rules and Regulations. It is a written code which has seen periodic changes and review, apart from conventions (read customs) of service.

Official publications mainly take the form of the Army Act, 1950, Army Rules 1954 and the Regulations for the Army, 1987 (in short RA). Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act are also relevant legislation. Another significant but obscure provision is Notes to Indian Military and Air Force Law (commonly referred as NMAFL). Strangely for reason not known, RA and NMAFL continue to be not accessible to the scholars and public at large.

There are two aspects significant for the purpose of this discussion. Firstly, military law publications were called by different names in the earlier years. However, these were all official publications. Law being complex and technical in nature, these text were not easy to comprehend and apply. The same called for a need to draft ‘notes’ or ‘comments’ thereto. These were prepared and duly inserted by the authorities, whose identity was not indicated. Secondly, military law was included in the syllabus for retention and promotion examinations for military officers. This was done with a view to make the officers study and assimilate relevant legal provisions necessary for enforcement of a disciplinary code amongst the men under their command. A need therefore, existed for publication of books that could explain, guide and amplify the rules. Thus such handbooks were required not only for application of law by the officers for unit routine but also for their understanding while preparing for obligatory examinations.

Infrequent actions were also taken to bring out précis and other publications at command and corps level for dissemination of military law. These too were all in-house publications.

Early Works[edit]

The growth of military law literature emerged from sheer necessity. It was acknowledged by General C.H. Harrington GBE, KCB, DSO, DCL, the then General Officer Commanding in Chief of Quetta-based Western Command on 28 October 1930 in a foreword to the book titled Handbook of Military Law by Capt. R.J. Wilkins and W.S. Chaney. He wrote,

“There are two main reasons why an officer should be at home in his Military Law.

One of them, the less important, is that he may pass his promotion examinations.

The other, by far the more important, is that he may avoid injustice towards his countrymen whom it was his privilege to command.”

Military and Cantonment Law1 in India is perhaps the oldest publication still available on military law. The author in his preface clarified the object of his work was to supply what is believed to be a want by supplementing for India the Manual of Military published by the war office in England.

Between the Two Wars[edit]

Courts martial in India2 was authored by Major LM Peet, officiating Assistant Judge Advocate General, Eastern Command. This publication was a pocket edition of about 4” by 5” in size. The publication carries valuable inputs for the conduct of courts martial. It would amaze one to find that common mistakes listed in the book are still often repeated today.

Indian Military Law3 by Lt. Col. ST Banning, CBE was printed in Great Britain. It was published “on the urgent request of several officers of the Indian Army who had studied the subject with (the author) while preparing for their examinations.” Author’s other book “Military Law” had by then already run into 18th edition. Yet another notable work by the author was titled “Military Law Made Easy.”

Notes on Military Law 1935 (Reprint 1942) was issued by General Headquarters, India. It carried a preface by General AB Haig, Adjutant General in India.

Post Independence[edit]

Handbook of Military4 Law by C. Sanjeevarow Nayudu was perhaps the first book post independence on military law. The author had declared in the preface that he was induced to write the book driven by the extreme need and usefulness of a military handbook. The foreword was written by Mr. B.R. Ambedkar, the then Minister for Law, Government of India. Ambedkar admitted that “for some reason Military Law has not attracted the attention of students of India Law and there are very few books on the subject”

Capt. K.K. Pradhan came up with Text Book of Military Law5 in 1956. The book running in nine chapters dealt with military law enforcement provisions, evidence, duties in aid of the civil power and lastly National Cadet Corps Act and Rules.

Privileges of the Military Personnel in Courts of Law6 was written with a very concise aim. Its main feature was a very detailed and exhaustive treatment of the topic. A notable feature of the book was its coverage of the provisions concerning defence of mechanical transport drivers in claims for damages arising out of accidents. Perhaps a book of this nature duly updated is needed even now.

‘Guide to Courts Martial’ by B.L. Goswami was a concise work directed solely at the procedures to applicable at the trial stage. Another book by the same author dealt with the topic of courts of inquiry.

SC Consul, Advocate came up with his book Law Relating to Military Service, Conditions, Privileges and Restrictions7 in 1965. A number of its chapters related to matters like conditions of service, penal deductions, service privileges, The Indian Soldiers (Litigation) Act, 1925; choice between criminal court and court martial and restrictions on fundamental rights.

The next book worthy of note and written by a military lawyer was Military Law in India8 Rear Admiral OP Sharma, the author, in his book first published in 1973 had disclosed that text was the doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Law to the Bombay University. It was an exposition of the principles and procedures of military law as they had developed over the last few centuries. The foreword to the book was written by Justice PB Gajenderagadkar, a former Vice Chancellor of the Bombay University and formerly the Chief Justice of India.

O.P. Sharma’s effort is to be specially commended because it pointed out the shortcomings and the gaps in the Indian Military Law. It indicated the ways in which it could be reformed so as to be in line with the role of a soldier in a democratic socialist set up. The work had taken into account more than 200 judgments of Indian High Courts and the Supreme Court. The publication was a scholarly work of merit and made a definite contribution to the knowledge of the law relating to the armed forces.

Military Law at a Glance9 was a concise book which came in the form of a handbook for army promotion examinations. The author claimed that the publication should serve as a help book to find the solution of confronting problems without going into the voluminous material from which it may have to be dug out.

Regimental Officer’s Handbook on Military Law (Questions & Answers) was an invaluable book authored by Brig. AC Mangala. The book running into 160 pages was printed by Army Printing Press, Lucknow in November, 1984. This was a revised edition of the same title first brought out in January 1976. The author in his preface had pointed out that the object of the book was to make readily available to regimental officer’s answers to such practical problems which they have to tackle during the course of their duties in the units and on the staff. Lt. Gen. R.D. Hira, Adjutant General in his foreword to the first edition had hoped that the publication would be useful to officers preparing for promotion and DSSC entrance examination.

Military Law in India was a joint effort10 by Dr. D.C. Jain, Dr. N.K. Indrayan and Maj. C.G. Goel. The work was in the form of a section wise narration of the Army Act provisions with a commentary for each clause. A significant feature of the book was incorporation of relevant case law.

The main utility of Study and Practice of Military Law11 by Col. G.K. Sharma, first published in 1988, was for assisting regimental officers in dealing with disciplinary cases. The author claimed that his work was a means to find ready answers to the day to day legal problems, faced by commanders, staff officers and persons interested in the study and practice of military law.

Beyond Exams Study Material[edit]

The higher judiciary of law need to consult compilation of case laws on some or similar legal issues. Need for such a compilation was long felt by the judges, lawyers and military authorities. Relating to the Armed Forces in India12 was the first and only book covering rulings given by Supreme Court and various High Courts on military law and service conditions of the armed forces as well as civilians paid from the defence estimates and ex servicemen. All the important judgments, reported or unreported were classified under main headings and sub headings and were listed subject wise in a chronological order.

Field Marshal SHFJ Manekshaw in his foreword to the book wrote, “I am sure that their (authors) efforts would be of immense use not only to those in the legal profession but to the staff officers in the Army units and formations as well.” The book has since come out in five editions with substantial increase in its contents.

A publication titled Compendium of Law for Defence Services13 came up in 1991. It was essentially a reproduction of Manual of Military Law. Merit of special note were however to portions running into four pages that covered a brief appraisal of trial by courts martial and drawbacks in system of trials by courts martial.

Major L.J. Obheroi’s his book Questions Answered on Military Law14 was released in May 1994. The author in the preface declared the main objective to present a useful and accurate guide to commanding officers, formation commanders and staff and regimental officers in regard to their powers and functions under the Army Act. This book was claimed by him to be, the only book which explains how to be refer to MML and RA, with practical examples to get, at the right answers. The book was divided in 20 chapters including specimen charges.

A significant step with regard to military law publications is the Military Law Journal15. First started in 1996 as a news letter of the Judge Advocate General’s Department, it later took the shape of a reproduction of case law concerning military law. It is now a bi-annual journal brought out by the Institute of Military Law, Kamptee. It is a priced publication bearing an ISIN No. It is divided in two parts. While the first contains articles and book reviews, the second one carries decisions of the high Courts, Supreme Court, High Courts in India and different benches of the Armed Forces Tribunal on different aspects concerning the Army. Yet another notable feature is its historical section in which earlier cases of relevance are also reproduced. With its maiden appearance in 1996, the annual law journal carries complete text of relevant judgments of the Supreme Court. It also carries review of new books.

Court Martial and Military Matters16 by Brig. (now Maj. Gen.) Nilendra Kumar as an attempt to discuss the complexities of modern legal thought as pertaining to military canvas. It took into account a thorough overview of military law. It did not merely described the law but pointed the way ahead. The book in its 15 articles did not present merely abstract legal theory but a discussion of legal principles as well as ground realities. It took stock of practical infirmities in the law.

The History of the Department of Judge Advocate General17 was an attempt at the official narration of JAG’s Department history. The text traced the origin of the department and system of courts martial in India. Suitably divided in 10 chapters, the text dealt with pre and post independent eras, revision of publications, legal cells, origin of Corps Day and Institute of Military Law. It also carried a list of the officers serving in the department at the time of publication. The book came in time with the first reunion of the JAG Department.

Military Law Handbook for Commanders18 was published with a firm belief of the author that sound administration and personnel management calls for due emphasis on fair play, adherence to laid down norms and humane treatment of the subordinates. The work was indeed of practical help to commanders at various levels. The second edition of the book in 2011 took into account new changes like setting up of the Armed Forces Tribunal, The Right to Information Act and adoption of information technology by the armed forces.

Pension Regulations for the Army 1961 (including 1940)19 was the title chosen by Captain R.S. Dhull for his first book. The effort was indeed praiseworthy for it made available Pension Regulations to the courts, lawyers and litigants that were otherwise almost never to be found.

2007-2008 Armed Forces20 by Captain R.S. Dhull was a compilation of decisions of higher judiciary in India. It also carried up-to-date orders and information relating to pension. It took into account 20 judgments of the Supreme Court and 47 of various High Courts.

Soldiers invalided out from service on medical grounds are entitled to the award of disability pension when the disability recorded is found to be attributable to or aggravated by the service conditions.

Law Relating to the Disability Benefit21 in the Armed Forces was a compilation of case law where the higher judiciary had examined the legality of executive decisions taken in the matter of award of disability pensions. It also discussed various dimensions of the provisions relating to award of disability benefits to the men in uniform.

Case Studies on Military Law22 by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar was first published in 2003. It presented live cases relating to investigations and enquiries, disciplinary and administrative action decisions starting with hearing of charge and leading on to disposal of cases. The identity of the offenders, witnesses and those who dealt with the matter as well as units and formations had been concealed. The case studies compiled in the book were intender to help the commanders by drawing suitable lessons by way of an opportunity to carry out a critical analysis of actual and him situations. A review of the book in USI Journal hailed it as a “valuable contribution for proper understanding of the subject through live case studies.”

Courts Martial Under Scrutiny23 by Maj. Gen Nilendra Kumar appeared as a discourse on divergent issues concerning operations, procurements litigation, human resource management, low intensity conflicts, international terrorism and peace enforcement operations. It was an exercise to analyse critical areas showing crucial deficiencies in the existing legal procedures as noted from academic scrutiny and actual application.

Military Law and Writs24 was brought out by Major J.L. Obheroi in 2003 as an author and publisher. The voluminous work spread over 30 chapters was meant to assist the practitioners of military law by providing them with a ready reckoner to deal with writ petitions. It also contained relevant case law. It covered the whole spectrum of one’s service conditions, rights, duties and obligations.

Then Now & Beyond[edit]

Military Law then, now & beyond25 was brought out by the Judge Advocate General’s Department at the time of their second Re-union in 2005. This was a unique publication in the form of interviews, articles, poems and pictures. The work was conceived, designed and produced by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar.

The book was suitably divided into portions dealing with reminiscences; izzat, honour & ethics; courts martial; litigation; law of war, gender justice and human rights, legal training, media and other issues, recollections from the past; armed forces tribunal, reforms in military law, empowerment and way ahead. Elegant layout and superbly printed the book carried interviews with General JJ Singh, Chief of the Army Staff and with Justice Brigadier DM Sen, the first Judge Advocate General of free India. The contributors to the book were some of the well known experts on military and legal issues e.g. Lt. Gen. V.R. Raghavan, Justice DP Wadhwa formerly of the Supreme Court, Dr. Manoj Kumar Sinha, Dr. Manish Arora, Dr. Shyamlha Pappu, Maj. Gen. V.K. Singh, SV Thapliyal and AB Gorthi; Maria Teresa Dutli, Krister Thelin, KPD Samanta, Diane Guillemette, Dr. N.M. Ghatate, PH Parekh etc.

Military Law Lexicon26 was a joint effort by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar and Kush Chaturvedi. It was a lexicon of military legal terms a necessary step for understanding military terms. Various terms were explained by a combination of means i.e. some times by their dictionary meaning or by statutory definition, and at places by a combination of both. Terms of foreign usage were also included.

The Military Justice System in India27 by Wg. Cdr. U.C. Jha was a critical study of existing military justice system in India and its comparison with that of the UK and the USA. It enumerated the deficiencies in the Indian military justice system. It articulated that limitations on human rights must be provided for by law and should be consistent with international treaty obligations. The author strongly called for drafting a common code for the three services. He was in favour of the judicial branch of the armed forces to be headed by a Chief Judge Advocate General, of the rank of Lieutenant General, under the Ministry of Defence.

Courts on Military Law28 by Col. G.K. Sharma and Col. M.S. Jaswal came in the form of voluminous work. It is a narration of the Army Act and Army Rule provisions. Each section or rule was followed by a commentary which was essentially a case law relevant to the text thereof. The book had drawn upon 954 decided cases to build up its text. This number included the rulings on pension matters.

Wg. Cdr. U.C. Jha came up with a work titled Armed Forces Tribunal29 in 2010. The book critically examined the jurisdiction and powers of the Armed Forces Tribunal. It gave an insight into the problems that were likely to be encountered by the tribunal when it started functioning. It also carried a resume of the existing system of grievances redressal.

The other book by Wg. Cdr. U.C. Jha in 2010 was titled The South Asian Military Law Systems30. It was a comparative study of the military law systems of the five South Asian countries viz. Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It also included certain portions on law of Armed Conflict and International Human Rights Law, relevant to the activities of the Armed Forces. The author devoted a separate chapter to conclusions and recommendations. He advocated separation of the Judge Advocate branch of the respective services and its placement under the Ministry of either law or justice.

A Handbook of Military Law31 by Wg. Cdr. Dr. U.C. Jha was claimed by the author to have been written with an aim to serve as a ready reference for the officers of the Indian Army who would like to know something about their legal rights and responsibilities. The handbook also covered the syllabus of Part B and D promotion examinations and DSSC entrance examination. The portion on Right to Information had information on a matter otherwise little known to the military. The last chapter dealt with military contingents in peacekeeping.

Court Martial Process : Empirically studied32 was the work of Brigadier Rama Gopal Vidhu. It was based on the award of Ph.D by the University of Delhi. The text had drawn heavily on the responses of 200 military and civilian personnel to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the court martial process. The book carried a number of useful suggestions to streamline the procedures at different stages of courts martial.


The above text is based chiefly on an article by Major General Nilendra Kumar, former Judge Advocate General, Indian Army

  • 1. Military and Cantonment Law in India by HWC Carnduff; CIE. S.K. Lahiri & Co., 54, College Street, Calcutta, 1904 edition Hardbound, 672 page. Particular mention may be made of Chapter VI that related to the interpretation and construction of legislative enactments. The author acknowledged the willing assistance and valuable advice he had received from time to time from several friends in the Army, especially at Simla, where during the last five years most of the work had been compiled.
  • 2. Courts Martial in India by Major LM Peet by Thacker Spink & Co., Calcutta & Simla, 1923 edition, Paperback, 111 page.
  • 3. Indian Military Law by Lt. Col. ST Banning, CBE, W. Thacker & Co., 2,Creed Lane,EC,London,1924 edn, Hardbound, 152 page
  • 4. Handbook of Military Law by Col. C.S. Nayudu, The Metropolitan Book Company, Delhi. First Edn, 1951, Paperback, 160 page, Rs. 3/8
  • 5. Text book of Military Law by Capt. K.K. Pradhan, Kishore Publishing House, Parade, Kanpur First edn, 1956, Paperback, 160 page, Rs. 3/8
  • 6. Privileges of the Military Personnel in Courts of Law by BL Goswamy, District & Sessions Judge, Atma Ram & Sons, Kashmere Gate, New Delhi, first edn, 1960, Paperback, 146 page, Rs. 10/-
  • 7. Law Relating to Military Service, Conditions, Privileges and Restrictions by SC Consul, Army Educational Store, Ambala Cantt., First edition, 1965,Hardbound 147 page, Rs. 5/-.
  • 8. Military Law in India by OP Sharma, N Tripathi Private Ltd., Bombay, ISBN 81-7118-020-5,Hardbound,451 Page, Rs. 180/-.
  • 9. Military Law at a Glance by Major B.S. Jain, The English Book Store, New Delhi, first edn, 1981, Hardbound, 135 page, Rs. 25/-
  • 10. Military Law in India by D.C. Jain, Dr. N.K. Indrayan and Maj. C.G. Goel, Deep & Deep Publications, New Delhi first edn, 1984, Hardbound, 479 page, Rs. 250/-
  • 11. Study and Practice of Military Law by Col. G.K. Sharma, Deep & Deep Publications, Rajauri Garden, New Delhi, first edn, 1988, ISBN 81-7100-359-1, Hardbound, 606 page, Rs. 250/-
  • 12. Law Relating to the Armed Forces in India by Lt. Col. (later Maj Gen) Nilendra Kumar and Rekha Chaturvedi, by N.M. Tripathi, Bombay (later Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi), first edn 1989, ISBN 81-7534-469-5, Hardbound, 854 page, Rs. 795/-
  • 13. Compendium of Law for Defence Services, by Justice SB Malik, RK Mehra and Nitin Khanna, The University Book Agency, 158 Elgin Road, Allahabad, New Edition 1991, Hardbound, 783 page, Rs. 450/-
  • 14. Maj. J.L. Oberoi (Retd.), third edition published by Asha, 1508 Sector 33-D, Chandigarh, Hardbound, 236 page, Rs. 145/-
  • 15. Military Law Journal; published by Institute of Military Law, Kamptee, Nagpur ISIN-0971-7803
  • 16. Court Martial and Military Matters by Nilendra Kumar, Manas Publications, New Delhi, ISBN 81-7049-106-1; first published 1999, Hard bound, 202 page, Rs. 495/-.
  • 17. The History of the Department of Judge Advocate General published by theJAG’s Department; by Lancer Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi, ISBN 81-7062-286-7, Hardbound, 92 page, price not indicated.
  • 18. Military Law Handbook by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar, Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, first edn, ISBN 978-93-5035-026-3, Paper back, 132 page, Rs. 250/-
  • 19. Pension Regulations for the Army 1961 (including 1940) Part-I & II by Captain RS Dhull, Bharti Book Club, New Delhi, First edn, 2005–06, Paperback,378 page, Rs. 750/-
  • 20. Brought out by the author himself.
  • 21. Law Relating to the Disability Benefits in the Armed Forces by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar and Dr. Hem Chandra by Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd, New Delhi ISBN 978-81-7534-269-9, first edn 2002, Paperback, 284 page, Rs. 195/-.
  • 22. Case Studies on Military Law by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar, by Universal Law Publishing Co., New Delhi, second edition 2011, ISBN 978-93-5035-051-5, Paperback, 136 page, Rs. 250/-
  • 23. Courts Martial Under Scrutiny’ by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar, Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi first edn 2003, ISBN 81-7534-336-2, Paperback, 184 page, Rs. 159/-
  • 24. Military Law & Writs by Major J.L. Obheroi, printed by Himalia Press, Chandigarh, Hardbound, 532 page, Rs. 595/-
  • 25. Military Law then, now & beyond; compiled and edited by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar, published by the Judge Advocate General’s Department, New Delhi 2005, Hardbound, 285 page, price not indicated.
  • 26. Military Law Lexicon by Maj. Gen. Nilendra Kumar and Kush Chaturvedi,Universal Law Publishing Co., New Delhi, ISBN 81-7534-573-X,First edition, 2006, Paperback, 237 page, Rs. 250/-
  • 27. The Military Justice System in India : An Analysis by U.C. Jha. Lexis Nexis Butterworths Wadhwa, Nagpur; first edition, 2009, ISBN 978-81-8038-508-7, Paperback, 325 page, Rs. 595/-
  • 28. Courts on Military Law by Colonels G.K. Sharma and M.S. Jaswal, Deep & Deep Publications Pvt. Ltd., Rajauri Garden, New Delhi First edn, 2006; second revised and enlarged edition – 2010; ISBN 978-81-8450-282-4; Hard bound,
  • 29. Armed Forces Tribunal, Wg. Cdr.(Dr.) U.C. Jha by Manas Publications, New Delhi, ISBN 978-81-7049-362-4; Hardbound,263 page, Rs. 495/-
  • 30. The South Asian Military Law Systems by Wg. Cdr (Dr.) U.C. Jha (Retd.), KW Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi First edn, 2010, ISBN 978-93-80502-43-4;Hardbound, 268 page, Rs. 740/-
  • 31. A Handbook of Military Law – Reference Manual – by Wg. Cdr. (Regd.) Dr. U.C. Jha(Retd), Vij Books India Pvt. Ltd., Ansari Road, Darya Ganj, New Delhi, 2011 edition, ISBN 978-93-80177-33-5, Hardbound, 298 page, Rs. 650/-
  • 32. Court Martial Process : Empirically studied by Brigadier Rama Gopal Vidhu; Vij Books India, New Delhi, 2011, ISBN 978-93-80177-36-6, Hard bound,434 page, Rs. 1950/-

Also See

  • Indian Army
  • Judge Advocate General(Army) India
  • Institute of Military Law, Kamptee
  • United Service Institution of India
  • Courts Martial
  • Armed Forces Tribunal
  • Military Law