[Sansad TV] Perspective: Inter-Services Organizations Bill, 2023



The Inter-services Organisations (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2023, was introduced in Lok Sabha on March 15, 2023.  

Inter-Services Organisations Bill, 2023

  • It seeks to empower the Commander-in-Chief or Officer-in-Command of Inter-services Organisations to exercise disciplinary or administrative control over the service personnel under their command, irrespective of their service.  
  • It will empower commanders-in-chief or any other officers posted in tri-services organisations with disciplinary and administrative powers in respect of personnel serving in them.

Key features

  • Inter-services Organisation (ISO):  Existing ISO will be deemed to have been constituted under the Bill.  These include the Andaman and Nicobar Command, the Defence Space Agency, and the National Defence Academy.  The central government may constitute an ISO which has personnel belonging to at least two of the three services: the army, the navy, and the air force.  These may be placed under the command of an Officer-in-Command.  These organisations may also include a Joint Services Command, which may be placed under the control of a Commander-in-Chief.
  • Control of ISO:  Presently, the Commander-in-Chief or Officer-in-Command of ISO are not empowered to exercise disciplinary or administrative powers over the personnel belonging to other services.  The Bill empowers the Commander-in-Chief or the Officer-in-Command of an ISO to exercise command and control over the personnel serving in or attached to it.  He/She would be responsible for maintaining discipline and ensuring the proper discharge of duties by the service personnel.
  • Superintendence of ISO:  The superintendence of an ISO will be vested in the central government.  The government may also issue directions to such organisations on the grounds of national security, general administration, or public interest.
  • Other forces under central government: The central government may notify any force raised and maintained in India to which the Bill will apply.  This would be in addition to army, navy, and air force personnel.
  • Commander-in-Chief: The officers eligible to be appointed as the Commander-in-Chief or Officer-in-Command are: (i) a General Officer of the regular Army (above the rank of Brigadier), (ii) a Flag Officer of the Navy (rank of Admiral of the Fleet, Admiral, Vice-Admiral, or Rear-Admiral), or (iii) an Air Officer of the Air Force (above the rank of group captain).
  • Commanding Officer: The Bill provides for a Commanding Officer who will be in command of a unit, ship, or establishment.   The officer will also perform duties assigned by the Commander-in-Chief or Officer-in-Command of the ISO.  The Commanding Officer will be empowered to initiate all disciplinary or administrative actions over the personnel appointed, deputed, posted, or attached to that Inter-services Organisation.

Need for this Bill

  • Multiple legislations: Currently, the service personnel of Indian Air Force, Army and Navy are governed by the provisions of the Air Force Act, 1950, the Army Act, 1950 and the Navy Act, 1957 respectively.
  • No integrated staff: Under current norms only officers of the respective services are empowered to exercise disciplinary powers over the service personnel under the respective service Acts.
  • Others: The Bill will also pave the way for various other tangible benefits such as expeditious disposal of cases, saving of time and public money by avoiding multiple proceedings and greater integration and joint manship among armed forces personnel.

Significance of the proposed Bill

  • Integration of forces: There has been a long-felt demand to streamline armed forces due to two hostile neighbors. The legislation seeks to avoid resource duplication and enable synergistic deployment.
  • Increase operational efficiency: The bill along with theaterisation will help reduce the current 17 commands to half a dozen for greater operational capability.
  • Better personnel management: The bill would addresses disciplinary issues in a tri-service environment with personnel from different services.
  • Official integration: With this, equivalence and power will be given to the Commander-in-Chief irrespective of their service.
  • Broader realization of security: Need for three services to collaborate to address emerging challenges in modern warfare. Ultimate objective of national security will become easier to achieve.

Existing challenges

  • Fixed rules of the three services pose a challenge to change.
  • Incorporating technologies like AI and drone technology in modern warfare is challenging.
  • Logistical issues in certain services make it difficult to formulate joint rules and collaboration.
  • Logistics pose a major challenge to smooth and coordinated implementation.
  • Chief of Defence Services (CDS) is overburdened with multiple roles.

Way forward

  • Operational power should be given within the joint service command at various levels.
  • Powers should be divided to reduce the workload on service headquarters in operational issues.
  • Synergy can be developed on promotion and marking standards between services.
  • CDS should be the Theatre Commander and the charge of the Department of Military Affairs should be given to another officer.
  • Assets of all services should be placed in a central pool until concrete steps of joint operations are taken
  • A Group of Ministers can be formed to take inputs and suggest a well-coordinated policy.
  • Immediate changes like land use and logistics should be made while complicated issues are deliberated.

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