It is military, not martial - clerical error in act rectified

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NEW DELHI - It was a “clerical error” irrelevant in a democratic India. The government Tuesday substituted the words “martial law” with “military law” in an act that came into force seven years ago to facilitate transfer of foreign prisoners from the country.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram Tuesday enacted the correction in the Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003 relating to transfer of prisoners convicted for various offences under civil or criminal law or under military (martial in original act) law.

The home minister said the mistake was due to “an oversight” and the expression “martial law” was not relevant in India’s democratic context.

This is because military law means the law applicable to armed forces, and martial law is the law which is declared by the army when it takes over a country.

The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha last year and was referred to a standing committee that also gave its go ahead to the change.

The committee report on the bill said its members had home ministry officials onboard before giving a green signal to the amendment.

On a query by a panel member, the report said: “Home Secretary (G.K. Pillai) responded that (the bill was brought) to rectify the clerical error.”

The act was passed by parliament in 2003 and came into force in 2004 to provide for the transfer of foreign prisoners and reception in the country of prisoners lodged in jails outside India.

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