Can a soldier start a fire on a mob?

The orders that a soldier is bound to obey are those that are lawful and not those that are obviously illegal. The soldier who acts in good faith on the orders of his superior officer will be protected by law.S o the answer is yes, a soldier can take action against a rioting mob when that action is taken against individuals who pose a threat to him. However, the law requires him to believe in good faith that his actions are legally bound. The need for the Army Act to specifically lay down detailed guidelines for the soldiers is thus amply satisfied. Where the subordinate obeys a manifestly illegal order, he would be punished. The superior who issues illegal order will also not escape punishment if he can be made criminally liable under IPC, etc. If in fact they acted in good faith and did not have a reasonable opportunity to come to know that it was an illegal order then they shall not be punished.

When you receive a lawful order, you have a duty to obey it. Therefore, if a soldier fires on unarmed civilians, he has violated the law. What if no orders are given but the commanding officer says “do whatever it takes?” Do you still have to follow legal requirements like filing an FIR if the civilians are killed? Then like in those other cases where a command is illegal, these orders are not binding. Can someone be legally punished for following orders? Can we say that the Geneva convention was violated? If so, how would it look like? The situation is grey and some things can never be known for sure.

The law on this question is developed over the years. There is no escaping from the fact that if a soldier shoots the civilian which he knows to be innocent and it’s in good faith when following orders, then it’s treated as an exception by the law. But here we are talking of something convoluted, that a mob raises slogans against sentiments of soldiers and misguides them to do something illegal. The main question here is that are civilians capable of twisting such thoughts even in the minds of trained soldiers? That’s hard to decide and I am not sure whether I agree with it or not.

Ultimately, there are many reasons why it is so hard to punish a superior for a subordinate’s actions, and these commandments should be respected by all soldiers. But there does need to be a proper investigation of the situation before any legal action is taken against the superior on charges of murder or any other crime. It is important then to consider all the facts and circumstances of the situation, as well as interrogation and personal testimony, before assigning legal accountability to a specific party.

No soldier woke up this morning intending to fire on a crowd. The soldier acted in good faith, obeying his superior officer’s orders. Was the order morally wrong? That’s for historians to determine. We can only comment that the legality of the order comes from the man who issued it – his superior officer, who had legal command and control over all soldiers under him. So whose orders exactly did the soldier follow? And whose orders should he have followed?

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.


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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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