Legal Career Options in Indian Army

If death strikes before I prove my blood, I swear I’ll kill Death –    Capt. Manoj Kumar  Pandey   PVC 1/11 Gurkha Rifles

Introduction 

The study of law is indeed useful in almost all aspects of life- in banking, finance, criminal proceedings and even in defense. The Defense system in India is divided into three- the army, the navy and the air force. All three branches of defense need lawyers who are well versed in military law. These military lawyers are called JAG officers. They are a part of the JAG department. These officers work under a Judge Advocate General.

Judge Advocate General and JAG officers

The Judge Advocate General, also called JAG,  is the chief legal advisor for the Indian Army. The primary responsibility of the officer is to handle his department which consists of military lawyers. As mentioned above, the Army, the Navy and the Air force needs JAG officers. However, within the Air Force, there is no direct entry for this department. Only Air force officers who have worked  for 3 years and have a knowledge of law can apply to be a part of this department.

Here, we will be speaking about JAG with special reference only to the Army. 

 History of the JAG department

The JAG department emerged in India as a result of the British Rule. The department was mentioned in the British Article of War, 1835. While the department was present since a long time, it was given a statutory basis by an Act of the Parliament on 21st December 1949.

The department will be 73 years old this 21st December, 2022.  

Eligibility

  • The person has to be from 21 to 27 years.
  • The person has to have completed his LLB degree from a recognized institute. 
  • The person has to be eligible to be a part of the Bar Council of India. 
  • The person should be unmarried till they are commissioned. 

 

  Procedure

  • After registering at www.joinindianarmy.nic.in, the person will have registered to be a JAG officer after filling in the required details.
  • There is no written exam as such, but shortlisted candidates have to appear for an SSB (Services Selection Board) interview. The SSB is the board which recruits army officers.
  • The SSB interview is for a duration of 5 days and in two stages.
  • After successfully passing both stages, the candidate has to undergo a medical examination.
  • If the candidate is successful in all of these stages, then they are evaluated on the basis of their marks in the SSB interview and then a merit list is prepared.
  • Those who have merit and are medically fit are then issued a letter of joining. 

What happens after?

  • Candidates then go to a training center in Madras for 49 weeks of training.
  • After successful completion of their training, they are issued a Post Graduate Diploma in Defense Management and Strategic Studies.
  • They are then commissioned within the Indian Army and start with the rank of a lieutenant. Their rank becomes higher with promotion.
  • The salary and allowances and other criteria are mentioned in detail in notifications issued by the Indian Army when the applications are open.

Functions of a JAG Officer

While the officers may have to see active duty for a short amount of time, generally they perform all the work of a civilian lawyer albeit in a  military setting. 

The officers are responsible for understanding military law, giving legal advice to the army, presiding in court martials or helping any member of the armed forces who might need legal representation. They may also act as prosecutors for the army and appear before military tribunals.

Female JAG officers

Women, in general, have to face a lot of bias in daily life. And as a result of a history of stereotypes and a certain established method of doing things, the Army was no different when it came to this bias. It was only in the year 1992 that female lawyers were allowed to be a part of the JAG department, though it is a known fact that JAG officers rarely see active duty.

After her training, a female officer is commissioned within the Army. A commissioned officer, in simple terms, is someone who is kind of like a part of management and gives instructions to non commissioned officers. A permanent commission refers to the advantage of having a career in the Army till a person retires. However, women were given permanent commission within the JAG department only since 2008! Even so, there are quite a few amazing women lawyers who have become trailblazers within the JAG department.

Some famous  female JAG officers

  1. Colonel Leena Gaurav: Colonel Leena Gaurav is the first Indian woman in the Indian Army to get the rank of Colonel. Born in Mumbai, the amazing Colonel finished her LLB degree and subsequently her LLM degree. She was commissioned in the JAG branch in 1996.  With regards to permanent commission mentioned above, she was able to avail the benefit of the same only in the year 2012 after a legal battle fought with the help of her advocate Rekha Palli.
  1. Lieutenant Colonel Jyoti Sharma: Lieutenant Colonel Jyoti Sharma became the first woman JAG officer to be deployed on a foreign mission in the year 2019. She would be advising the government of Seychelles with respect to military law.

What it means to be a woman in the Indian Army?

The above two women are just a few examples of trailblazing female JAG officers. Indeed women have it tough, especially within the Indian Army and even within departments which do not see active combat. Is it a result of bias? or is there some logic involved with regards to factors like fewer vacancies for women in the JAG branch and the late granting of permanent commission for women?

No matter what the case, women who want to be a part of the Army and serve the country have fought tooth and nail in order to be granted equality. Enthusiastically, they have become a part of the various branches of Army braving God knows how many issues.

Women indeed have to brave many issues even when they are not a part of the Army , Navy or Air force. And yet they emerge on the top. I salute each and every woman out there, whether a part of the Army or not.

Interesting tidbit: Code M

Code M is a TV show developed by Ekta Kapoor. Starring Jennifer Winget, the show revolves around her as Major Monica Mehra, a lawyer in the Indian Army. It is a fun show to watch and though a bit unrealistic, one can learn some things about army lawyers from it. Either way, it should surely be worth a one time watch.

Conclusion

Thus, the legal profession has a very vast scope. A JAG officer is a legal military officer and gets ranks, allowances and retirement benefits similar to an army officer. While they may not see much active duty, it is nonetheless an honor to do their bit to serve the country. Those who are pursuing law and are inclined toward an army life can surely try to apply for this career. 

                                                   References

  1. Wikipedia, Code M. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_M
  2. Notification for JAG Entry Scheme, 29 Oct 2022. https://joinindianarmy.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/NotificationPDF/NOTIFICATION_FOR_JAG_ENTRY_SCHEME_29_OCT_2022__COURSE.pdf 
  3. The Hindu, Legal Counsel for the Army. https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/careers/legal-counsel-for-the-army/article5179491.ece 
  4. Quora: Does the Indian Air Force have a JAG branch?https://www.quora.com/Does-the-Indian-Air-Force-have-a-JAG-branch
  5. Judge Advocate, Join Indian Navy:https://www.joinindiannavy.gov.in/en/page/law.html#:~:text=The%20primary%20role%20of%20a,and%20a%20sound%20naval%20administration.
  6. 30 motivational quotes from army officers. https://www.ssbcrack.com/2015/06/30-motivational-quotes-from-indian-army-officers-to-motivate-you.html 
  7. Press Information Bureau: Judges Advocates General Department celebrates thirty fourth corps day. https://pib.gov.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=174670 
  8. Same efficiency as men’: SC grants permanent commission to women officers in Indian Navy, Jagran Josh. https://english.jagran.com/india/same-efficiency-as-men-sc-grants-permanent-commission-to-women-officers-in-indian-navy-10009729 
  9. Quora, What work are JAGS assigned in the Indian Army? https://www.quora.com/What-work-are-the-JAGS-assigned-in-Indian-Army 
  10. Indian Express, Breaking the Glass Ceiling-https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/breaking-the-glass-ceiling-another-army-branch-gets-first-woman-colonel/ 
  11. Femina India , Meet LT COL Jyoti Sharma –https://www.femina.in/trending/achievers/meet-lt-col-jyoti-sharma-indias-first-woman-jag-officer-deployed-abroad-162711.html  

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