Thursday, September 28, 2023

Lok Sabha passes Inter-Services Organisation Bill, adds powers to Inter-Services heads

NEW DELHI: Aiming to empower the Commander-in-Chief and Officer-in Command of Inter-Services Organisations with all disciplinary and administrative powers, Lok Sabha on Friday passed Inter-Services Organisation (Command, Control & Discipline) Bill – 2023, in respect of the personnel serving in or attached to such organisations.

Initially, the Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 15 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Defence by the Speaker on April 24 for examination and report.

Currently, personnel of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force are governed in accordance with the provisions contained in their specific governing or regulatory Service Acts — the Army Act, 1950, the Navy Act, 1957, and the Air Force Act, 1950.

The Ministry of Defence said, “The enactment of the Bill will have various tangible benefits such as maintenance of effective discipline in inter-services establishments by the Heads of ISOs, no requirement of reverting personnel under disciplinary proceedings to their parent Service units, expeditious disposal of cases of misdemeanour or indiscipline and saving of public money & time by avoiding multiple proceedings.”

The Bill would also pave the way for much greater integration and jointness amongst the three Services; lay a strong foundation for the creation of Joint Structures in times to come and further improve the functioning of the Armed Forces, added the MoD.

Introducing the Bill in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh termed it as part of a series of military reforms being undertaken by the Government with the aim to empower the nation. He described the bill as an important step taken towards integration and jointness among the Armed Forces to face future challenges in an integrated manner.

The ‘ISO Bill-2023’ is essentially an Enabling Act and it does not propose any change in the existing Service Acts/Rules/Regulations which are time-tested and have withstood judicial scrutiny over the last six decades or more.

Service personnel when serving in or attached to an Inter-Services Organisation will continue to be governed by their respective Service Acts.

What it does is empower Heads of Inter-Services Organisations to exercise all the disciplinary and administrative powers as per the existing Service Acts/Rules/Regulations, irrespective of the service they belong to.

It is a significant move keeping in focus the ongoing process to re-organise and integrate its Armed Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force) into theatre commands. The restructuring of Military Commands for optimal utilisation of resources by bringing about jointness in operations, including through the establishment of joint or theatre commands.

At the time of enactment of these respective Acts, most of the service organisations were largely comprised of personnel from a single service i.e. Either Army, Navy or Air Force.

However, now there are numerous inter-services organisations such as Andaman and Nicobar Command, Strategic Forces Command, Defence Space Agency etc. And joint training establishments like the National Defence Academy and National Defence College, where personnel of the armed forces and other forces serve together.

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