Paving the way for the long-pending threaterisation of armed forces, the Lok Sabha on Friday passed a bill that seeks to establish Inter-Services Organisations (ISOs) and empower Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) and Officer-in Command (Oi/C) of ISOs with all disciplinary and administrative powers over personnel serving or attached under them.

Inter-Services Organisation (Command, Control & Discipline) Bill, 2023, does not propose any change in the existing Service Acts/Rules/Regulations that have withstood judicial scrutiny over more than last six decades but is an enabling provision, the Ministry of Defence explained. “Service personnel when serving in or attached to an Inter-Services Organisation will continue to be governed by their respective Service Acts. What it does is to empower Heads of Inter-Services Organisations to exercise all the disciplinary and administrative powers as per the existing Service Acts/Rules/Regulations, irrespective of the service they belong to,” stated the MoD.

‘important step’

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hailed the passage of the Bill that happened amidst opposition clamour for a discussion in the House on Manipur violence, dubbing it as an important step towards military reforms. Singh spoke on the bill after shifting to another seat on the permission of Speaker, since he was perturbed due to opposition sloganeering.

“I want to assure the House that this Bill is an important step in the direction of military reforms. This bill does not include any additional financial implications,” Singh told parliamentarians.

The Commander-in-Chief or the Officer-in-Command means General Officer/Flag Officer/Air Officer appointed to the post under an Inter-Services Organisation. In the absence of the Commander-in-Chief or the Officer-in-Command, the officiating incumbent or the officer on whom the command develops in absence of a C-in-C or Oi/C, will also be empowered to initiate all disciplinary or administrative actions overs the service personnel, appointed, deputed, posted or attached to an ISO, informed the Ministry.

Military assets

The theatre commands, that control military assets to protect country against any external aggression, will change the existing defence deployment structure by integrating Army, Air Force and Navy into one architecure with each being headed by one of the force’s senior officer depending on the authorised formation. For instance, a maritime command, will be headed by a Navy officer.

India already has two theatre commands, the Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) and Strategic Forces Command. But their structures will also melt into new formations and all the chiefs of threatre commands, which is yet to be formalised and made public, will report directly to Chief of Defence State General Anil Chauhan like it is United States of America and China.

“It is one of the most ambitious changes with far reaching implications attempted post-Independence. The start of this journey depends on the right steps taken towards joint-ness and integration,” General Chauhan had said in his last month’s address at a Defence Research and Development Organisation event.