The Bombay High Court has observed that offence of molestation committed by a naval personnel while he was in service will have to be tried and court martialled by Naval Commander-in-Chief and not by a criminal sessions court.
The order was passed recently by Justice Sadhana Jadhav while hearing an application filed by the Union government through Commanding Officer of INS Tunir seeking permission to take over the case and court martial of one of its personnel Narender Umed Singh Dadu, who is accused of atrocity and outraging the modesty of a woman.
The application challenged the order dated May 27, 2013, passed by a magistrate court in Uran, committing the case filed against Narender to the Alibag sessions court and also the order rejecting the Centre's plea seeking to take over the case in order to court martial Narender.
It is alleged that on March 18 and 20 this year, Narender and his friends had passed lewd remarks against the daughters of one Siddharth Punaji Gajbhiye (also employed in INS Tunir). A police case was registered against Narender under sections 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman) and 509 of IPC. On March 25, Narender was arrested.
On April 1, the Union of India filed an application before the magistrate seeking to take over the case for trial under the Navy Act.
The magistrate, however, rejected the application after observing that Narender is accused of offence punishable under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which is exclusively triable by the sessions court.
Aggrieved by this, the Union government approached the High Court.
The High Court, while allowing the application, observed that since the offence was committed by the accused while he was in service and under the supervisory jurisdiction of the commander, the Commander-in-Chief shall try the case.
The court further observed that even though the act is not committed in the course of discharge of official duties, rules contemplate that Commander-in-Chief shall try the accused by following the procedure prescribed by Criminal Court and Court Martial Rules.
The court quashed and set aside the magistrate's order committing the case to the sessions court.