Army does not tolerate homosexuality and adultery in its ranks despite SC verdict: Gen Rawat

NEW DELHI: The over 12-lakh strong Army will not tolerate homosexuality or adultery in its ranks despite recent landmark and progressive judgments by Supreme Court to decriminalize them by striking down the relevant archaic sections from the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

“The Army is conservative. We are a family. We are not westernized, neither modernized …We will not allow these (gay sex and adultery) to perpetrate into the Army,” said General Bipin Rawat on Thursday. Consequently, officers and soldiers indulging in either consensual same-sex acts or extra-marital affairs -- the latter euphemistically called “stealing the affections of a brother officer’s wife’’ in military -- will continue to face stringent action through court-martial for violating good military order, discipline and conduct as before.

The armed forces in many western countries like the US and Canada, incidentally, have evolved over the decades from an earlier blanket ban on homosexuality to “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policies to allowing gays, lesbians and bisexuals to serve openly in the ranks without any discrimination now.

Gen Rawat, on his part, said the Indian armed forces “are certainly not above” the country’s law, or the Supreme Court. “But when you join the Indian Army, you do not get some of the rights and privileges other citizens are authorized under the Constitution. On some issues, we will remain different. We, for instance, do not have the power to form unions,” he said.

Article 33 of the Constitution empowers the Parliament to restrict or abrogate the fundamental rights of uniformed personnel to maintain discipline and ensure the proper discharge of their duties. The over 14-lakh personnel in the armed forces, in turn, are also governed by their respective Army, Navy and IAF Acts, which come down heavily on “unbecoming conduct and actions” that may not strictly be criminal acts under the IPC.

An extra-marital affair, for instance, is considered a grave crime in the armed forces because it strikes at the very foundations of brotherhood and loyalty fostered in the military, where husbands often leave their wives behind in “separated family” accommodation in cantonments on being posted to forward or field areas.

Officers indicted for such offences are usually sacked after a court-martial, sometimes without even pension and other benefits. Over the years, a few major-generals have also been told to quietly put in their papers and leave the service for the offense.

“Officers and jawans posted on the borders should not be worried about their families left behind in field area family accommodation in Delhi, Pune and other places. We must ensure that their families are safe, secure and well looked after,” said Gen Rawat, adding that there “cannot be a free for all” in the ranks.

“As for LGBT issues, they are simply not acceptable in the Army. We will still be dealing with them under various sections of the Army Act,” he added.

Gen Rawat said he could not talk about the future, say 20 years down the line, but it was a strict no-go area as of now. “It may be happening elsewhere, but we will not allow in our ranks. Let’s wait and watch…we will see,” he said.