Offences relating to the Army, Navy & Armed Forces

offences relating to the Army, Navy & Air Force

Chapter VII of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 in sections 131-140 deals with offences relating to the Army, Navy & Air Force. This deals with offences which are committed by civilians in relation to defence personnel. The main reason this chapter has been incorporated is for those offences in which civilians abet offences committed by the Army, Navy or Air Force. The Penal Code excludes from liability under section 139 persons who are subject to the Army Act, 1950, Indian Navy (Discipline) Act, 1934, and the Air Force Act, 1950, this means that the defence personnel have special laws and are not subject under the Indian Penal Code.

The basic purpose of this chapter is to maintain discipline under the Army, Navy and Air Force. This chapter focuses on the civilians and their relation to these personnel’s.

Abetment of Mutiny

Section 131 Abetting mutiny, or attempting to seduce a soldier, sailor or airman from his duty

This section states that whoever abets the committing of mutiny or attempts to seduce any officer, soldier from his allegiance or his duty, such shall be punishable with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of a term which may lead up to ten years and shall also be liable to a fine. In the case of Pindi Das, he published an article in his magazine purporting to be a letter from a sympathiser of terrorists in Punjab calculated to seduce Sikh soldiers of the Indian army to leave their allegiance and their duty to the Government of India. Thus, the publisher and the printer were held under section 131 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 132 Abetment of mutiny, if mutiny is committed in consequence thereof

This sections deals with cases when mutiny is committed due to the abetment or seduction in a very aggravated form and prescribes an extreme penalty.

Abetment of Assault by an Officer on a Superior Officer

Section 133- Abetment of assault by soldier, sailor or airman on his superior officers when in execution of his office 

Section 133 makes abetment of assault by any defence person on any superior officer punishable. Section 133 punishes this with imprisonment for a term of three years and fine. Assault means the striking of a superior officer or committing an act of violence against him while on duty.

Section 134- Abetment of such assault, if the assault is committed

Section 134 is a more serious form of violence than what is mentioned in section 133. When an assault is committed in pursuance of abetment, punishment can extend up to imprisonment for seven years of with description and with fine.

Abetment of Desertion

Section 135- Abetment of Desertion of soldier, sailor or airman

Section 135 prescribes the punishment got knowingly harbouring a deserter. Desertion here has to be abetted, for this section to come to life. Desertion means to remain unlawfully absent from duty with no intention of returning to it.

Section 136- Harboring deserter

This section punishes a civilian who gives shelter to an officer, sailor or airman. The punishment would be imprisonment for two years and with fine. A person harbouring a deserter is similar to an accessory after the fact. 

Section 137 Deserter concealed on board merchant vessel through negligence of master

This section fixes criminal responsibility on the master of a merchant vessel or a ship engaged in commerce, for negligence in allowing a deserter on board. This section is not applicable in the case of war. A master is under legal duty to perform a thorough search of his vessel done before disembarkation. If this statutory duty is not performed by the master of the vessel he will be held criminally responsible under this section.

Abetment of an act of insubordination

Section 138 Abetment of act of insubordination by soldier, sailor or airman

Whoever abets the act of insubordination committed by the personnel mentioned above will be punished with imprisonment of a term which may extend to six months or with fine or with both.

Section 140 Wearing garb or carrying token used by soldier, sailor or airman.

This section punished the wearing of the dress of a soldier, sailor or airman with the intention of making others believe that the person is in defence services. The punishment for this may extend up to imprisonment for six months or with fine or both. The mere wearing of a military man’s dress is not an offence, but wearing it to deceive other is, thus an actor on screen wearing the uniform would not come under the purview of this section.


The fifth law commission report proposes changes to chapter VII of the Indian Penal Code.

  • There is a recommendation to change the subject matter of Offences relating to Armed Forces instead of offences relating to Army, Navy and Air Force.
  • An enhancement of punishment to 2 years from 6 months for abetment of insubordination when the attempt is successful.
  • Deletion of Section 137 on that ground that it is not consequential
  • Punishment under section 135 to be increased to 5 years if desertion does take place.

These amendments were proposed to be made, but it lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

In conclusion, the military legal system in India was designed after the mutiny of 1857 to make sure such situations do notoccur in the future. Many countries around the world authorize a military judicial system. In Germany, defence personnel are governed under ordinary civil jurisdiction. The UK also hasspecial defence Acts, Canada is governed by one National Defense Act.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is court marital in the Indian army?

When a trial is conducted by a military court it is called court-martial. The military courts can award punishment to its personnel subject to military law. Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breakdown of military discipline may have occurred.

Can you go to jail for leaving the army?

Desertion is the most serious AWOL offence. The main difference between AWOL and desertion is the intention to leave the military permanently.  Outside of these circumstances, desertion faces a maximum penalty of 5 years of confinement, dishonourable discharge, and forfeiture of all pay.

What are the three types of court-martial?

There are three types of courts-martial: summary, special, and general.Summary Court-Martial. Trial by summary court-martial provides a simplified procedure for the resolution of charges involving minor incidents of misconduct.  Special Court-Martial, General Court-Martial & Joint Jurisdiction.

“The views of the authors are personal


The Indian Penal Code, K.D. Gaur, fourth Edition, Universal Law Publishing Co. p,195-210Cecil Turner.J. (2013), Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law, Cambridge: Cambridge University PressTextbook of Criminal Law, Glanville Williams, fourth Edition, Sweet & Maxwell South Asian Edition Pindi Das, 1907 PWR (Cr. 32)

Srishti John
Srishti is a law student at CMR School of Legal Studies, Bangalore. In her time at law school, she has found herself lost in subjects like Jurisprudence and Criminology. She loves a good debate and people who challenge her to become better. She is a Political Science graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Her resolutions involve reading 30 books in 2020 and spreading a message of joy, kindness and love. She wants to pursue her LLM and aid the violated and vulnerable in their quest for equality & justice.