The Union Government has introduced a bill in Parliament that allows military commanders to take charge of soldiers, irrespective of their service, as they move towards creating joint services commands for the army, air force, and navy.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh introduced the Inter-services Organisations (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill in the Lok Sabha, which is the only legislation necessary for establishing joint theatre commands. These new formations would unify units from the army, air force, and navy under a single military authority, either based on geographic location or function.
Currently, soldiers in different services are regulated by separate Acts of Parliament. If, for instance, an army soldier is under the command of a navy officer in a joint services scenario, the soldier would have to return to their original unit for disciplinary procedures. The navy officer lacks administrative authority over the soldier.
The creation of joint services commands is expected to split all three services into five separate commands. Commanders must be granted the power to enforce discipline and conduct appraisals to ensure administrative efficiency.
The upcoming theatre commands are mentioned in a submission to Parliament. The bill says it will enable the central government to create an inter-services organization, such as a joint services command made up of units or personnel from the army, air force, and navy. This will be subject to existing Acts that govern these branches.
Singh submitted to parliament that the proposed bill would serve as enabling legislation. It would grant the heads of inter-services organizations the power to command and control all personnel in the regular air force, army, and navy.
Furthermore, this authority would extend to those serving in or attached to inter-services organizations, as notified by the central government. The proposed bill achieves this without the need to amend respective Acts, according to Singh.
The new system is expected to feature five joint service commands - western, eastern, northern, maritime, and air defense. The existing officers at the commander-in-chief level are set to be assimilated into these commands as staff officers, providing guidance to the theatre commanders.
CDS Anil Chauhan is leading the efforts to establish the details of the new system and achieve a general agreement.
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