Source : The Indian Express
The Inter-Services Organisation Bill 2023 and how it paves the way for establishment of theatre commands
The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday (August 8) passed a bill that empowers the commander-in-chief and the officer-in-command of inter-services organisations with disciplinary and administrative powers over personnel from the other services serving in them.
The Inter-Services Organisation (Command, Control & Discipline) Bill – 2023 was introduced in the Upper House amid a walkout by opposition members demanding a discussion on the Manipur violence. It was passed by the Lok Sabha on August 4. A parliamentary panel had recently recommended that the Bill be passed without any amendments.
What does the bill say?
The bill seeks to empower Commander-in-Chief and Officer-in Command of Inter-Services Organisations with all disciplinary and administrative powers so that they take decisions related to personnel serving in or attached to such organisations.
At present, all Army, Navy and IAF personnel are governed by their service-specific acts.
While service personnel serving in or attached to an Inter-Services Organisation will continue to be governed by their respective Service Acts, the enabling bill when enacted will empower heads of Inter-Services Organisations to exercise all the disciplinary and administrative powers as per the existing service acts, and related rules and regulations, irrespective of the service they belong to.
More importantly, it also empowers the central government to constitute an Inter-Services Organisation, thus paving the way for the creation of integrated theatre commands — a major military reform on cards.
Speaking about the bill in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said considering the new challenges involved in modern warfare which is more technology and network-centric, the bill will aid better coordination among the defence forces, and bring about better jointness and integration within the military.
What will change with the enactment of the bill?
The heads of the existing inter-services organisations presently do not have these powers and thus any disciplinary or administrative action against personnel attached to these organisations have to be referred to their respective services.
The inter-services organisations, though not explicitly referred to as so, include the Strategic Forces Command, the Andaman and Nicobar Command and joint training establishments such as the National Defence College, among others.
The enactment of the Bill will ensure maintenance of effective discipline in inter-services establishments by their heads, no requirement of referring personnel undergoing disciplinary proceedings to their parent services, and faster disposal of cases of misdemeanour or indiscipline.
This will potentially save both public resources and time.
Is this bill a precursor to theaterisation?
Responding to a question on the military’s theaterisation move, the defence minister had said in the house that it would be premature to speak about it.
He had, however, added that if theaterisation happens, this Act, through a normal notification, would be effective on theatre commands too.
Theaterisation or establishment of theatre commands is a major military reform that seeks to roll the existing individual commands of the three services into tri-services organisations with a common military aim.
With the Indian Armed Forces drawing up the finer details of the integrated theatre commands, this bill can be considered one of the several steps paving the way for their establishment. Currently, the plans are to establish three theatre commands—one facing Pakistan, one facing China, and a maritime theatre command, largely taking care of the peninsular India.
This is because every integrated theatre command will have components of the three services and will be headed by a theatre commander of one of the services.
The bill will empower the theatre commander or even those reporting to him to take disciplinary or administrative action against personnel attached to that specific theatre command without having to refer those cases to the individual services of the personnel. However, this would be first notified through a separate government notification. Inter-Services Organisation Bill 2023 Inter-Services Organisation Bill 2023 Inter-Services Organisation Bill 2023 Inter-Services Organisation Bill 2023 Inter-Services Organisation Bill 2023 Inter-Services Organisation Bill 2023 IgMp