Air Force Personnel in India are subject to the Air Force act as well as the law of the land. This is necessary to maintain discipline in a fighting force. To further streamline the efficacy of the force the Air Force has a set of laws called summary disposal of charges. These powers flow from the Air Force act 1950, which is a revised version of the Air Force act 1932.
Summary disposal of charges invests the Commanding Officer of an Air Force unit or detachment with judicial powers of trial and punishment. The procedure for hearing and disposal of these charges is called ‘The Commanding Officers Orderly Room Procedure’
Summary disposal of charges by the Commanding Officer of a unit is one of the methods to maintain discipline in the air force. There are however severe limitations as to powers of punishment in this summary disposal of charges.
a) The Commanding Officer can hear a charge against any enlisted man or officer, but he can punish only Airmen (below officer and warrant ranks). In other words a commanding officer can only punish enlisted men up to the rank of NCO or corporal. The charge will be preferred in form no IAFFP (24) and the accused will be marched before the CO.
b) The CO if holding a rank of Squadron leader or above can award the following punishments
iii) Severe Reprimand
iv) Detention in Air Force Custody up to 28 days
v) Forfeiture of pay and allowances up to 3 days.
Commanding officers below the rank of Squadron Leader can only award punishments listed at Para(i),(ii) and iii) and detention up to 3 days.
c) In all other cases the CO will forward the IAFFP (24) duly annotated to the next superior authority.
To give a semblance of solemnity to the summary disposal of charge by the CO the Regulations for the Air force 1950 as amended lays down the procedure for conducting the hearing of the charge by the CO, also known as the CO’s orderly room procedure.
- The CO will hear the charge while wearing the service Dress Cap (Peak Cap). The adjutant will present the P24 and the service documents of the accused to the CO.
- The accused will be marched to the CO’s office by the SWO (station Warrant officer). He will be divested of his belt and cap.
- The CO will read the charge and ask him whether the he pleads guilty or not guilty. In case the accused pleads not guilty the CO will hear the witnesses. The accused will be at liberty to cross question the witnesses.
- On conclusion the accused will be marched out and the CO will deliberate on the evidence presented and the record of the accused. The accused will be marched in later to hear the verdict and punishment if any.
The CO may dismiss the charge or award any punishment as listed above. In case the he feels the crime is of a serious nature he will forward the P24 to the superior authority. There is no judicial review or appeal against a punishment awarded by the Commanding Officer. Summary disposal of charges by the Commanding Officer of a Unit is the backbone of Air force discipline