Theatre Commands: India Parliament’s lower house clears Inter-Services Organisation Bill


ISO Bill 2023 for Theatre Commands: The lower house of Indian Parliament, the Lok Sabha, Friday cleared the Inter-Services Organisation (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2023 that seeks to empower the Commander-in-Chief and Officer-in Command of Inter-Services Organisations with all disciplinary and administrative powers with respect to personnel serving in or attached to such organisations, a Defence Ministry statement said. Once passed by the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s bicameral Parliament, the law will pave the way for providing rules and regulation for Indian military’s theaterization.

Introducing the Inter-Services Organisation (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2023, in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh termed it as part of a series of military reforms being undertaken by the government with the aim of empowering the nation.

The MoD said it will empower Commander-in-Chief and Officer-in Command of Inter-Services Organisations (ISOs) with all disciplinary and administrative powers in respect of the personnel serving in or attached to such organisations.

“The Bill empowers the Central government to constitute an Inter-Services Organisation,” the Ministry said on its salient features. In this, the Bill acts as a precursor to the reorganisation of the military into integrated theatre commands on which there is consensus now for the creation of two land-based integrated commands and one maritime theatre command.

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At present, Indian military personnel are regulated in accordance with the provisions contained in their respective Service Acts — the Army Act of 1950, the Air Force Act of 1950 and the Navy Act of 1957.

Indian Army, Defence Ministry,

Rajput Regiment.

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“The enactment of the Bill will have various tangible benefits such as maintenance of effective discipline in inter-services establishments by the Heads of ISOs, no requirement of reverting personnel under disciplinary proceedings to their parent Service units, expeditious disposal of cases of misdemeanour or indiscipline and saving of public money and time by avoiding multiple proceedings,” said the ministry of defence.

The Bill was earlier introduced in the Lok Sabha on March 15, 2023, and was referred to the Standing Committee on Defence by the Speaker on April 24, for examination and report. The committee had the oral evidence of the representatives of the Ministry of Defence on the Bill on May 29, 2023 following which the draft report was considered and adopted by the Standing Committee on July 20, 2023.

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Inter- Services Organisation Bill 2023

The ‘ISO Bill-2023’ is essentially an ‘enabling Act’ and it does not propose any change in the existing Service Acts, Rules and Regulations which are time-tested and have withstood judicial scrutiny over the last six decades or more, the Ministry said.

The Ministry further stated that the Bill would also pave the way for much greater integration and jointness amongst the three Services; lay a strong foundation for the creation of Joint Structures in times to come and further improve the functioning of the armed forces.

The Government said that the ‘ISO Bill-2023’ shall be applicable to all personnel of the regular Army, Navy, and Air force, and to persons of other forces, as notified by the Central government, who are serving in or attached to an Inter-Services Organisation.

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Indian Air Force Personnel.

Indian Air Force Personnel.

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Theatre Commands of Indian Military

In high-level military reforms, the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was created in 2019 with the mandate of ensuring the jointness of the three services in operations, logistics, transport, training, support services, communications, repairs and maintenance.

The top priority for the CDS is the proposed reorganisation of the armed forces into integrated theatre commands. The effort was delayed due to a lack of consensus between the Services and was stalled by the death of the 1st CDS General Bipin Rawat, and then the delay in the appointment of his successor. With General Anil Chauhan taking charge as the second CDS, the stalled process was put back on track and now it is in an advanced stage.

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