KATHMANDU: The government and Nepali Army (NA) have violated the order of the Supreme Court (SC) concerning the reforms of military law to make the military justice system compatible with the internationally accepted principle of justice. Almost a year has passed, but the government is yet to form a panel to look into reforming the country’s military justice system. This has become relevant with the integration of UCPN Maoist combatants in NA as well as heading the country towards positive scenario in drafting the constitution.
With the government’s refusal to form a committee to review the provisions of Military Act, 2006 as per the order of the SC, questions are raised concerning the justice system in the army. Being granted justice from a competent and independent court, getting legal advice from a lawyer in the process of trial and getting finality of judgment from the judiciary are fundamental rights, but the military justice system is yet to respect such principles.
There are some provisions in the Military Act, 2006 that are against the internationally accepted principle of justice, therefore they need to be reformed.
Judgment issued by the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) on military issues and other provisions related to criminal justice system [Section 27(7) of the Military Act] is a violation of the provision relating to criminal justice system as ensured by Article 24(9) of the Interim Constitution. Krishna Bahadur Tamang, who was detained by the Military Court in the offence of being in charge of illegal possession of weapons, has filed a petition challenging the military justice system.
There is a serious question whether detaining authority, the right of producing a person in a court of law within 24 hours after arrest and the army officers’ role as judges are compatible with the Interim Constitution. On July 1, 2011, the SC had issued verdict directing the government to review the provisions of the military Acts, which are against the internationally accepted principle of justice. Even after the verdict, issues arose again as the government and CA are delaying forming the committee as per the Apex Court (AC) order.
The verdict directed the government and NA to observe issues regarding the military court and its working procedure and to investigate Nepal Army Act, 2006, in order to bring institutional reform in the judiciary and make them effective. “The AC verdict underlined reforms in military justice system but delayed in forming a panel to look into the reform. This has raised a question on the motive of the authorities,” Govinda Sharma Bandi, human rights lawyer, told THT Perspectives. “The basic thing is that the military court is not out of chain of command, so it cannot go beyond the order and dispense justice independently,” Bandi added.