Advancing Justice on the Battlefield

Published On: 24th March, 2024

Authored By: Aryan Gupta
Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab
The Role of Judge Advocate Generals in the Indian Army

1.1 Brief Introduction of the Topic

This paper explores the vital role of legal professionals, particularly Judge Advocate Generals, within the Indian Army, emphasizing their contributions to ensuring operational legality, ethical conduct, and accountability in armed conflict. It discusses how lawyers advise commanders, uphold human rights, and administer military justice. Through case studies and analysis, it delves into the challenges lawyers face, including reconciling military necessity with legal obligations and addressing violations of international humanitarian law. Furthermore, it examines the impact of evolving warfare dynamics, such as hybrid threats, on the role of legal practitioners in military operations.

1.2 Object and Purpose of the Study

The object of this study is to examine the role and importance of lawyers within the Indian Army, with a focus on their contributions to legal compliance, ethical conduct, and operational effectiveness. The study aims to explore the specific legal frameworks guiding the activities of lawyers in the Indian military context, analyzing how these frameworks align with international standards and human rights principles. Additionally, the study seeks to identify the key responsibilities and duties of lawyers (Judge Advocates) in the Indian Army and the challenges they face in carrying out their roles. By investigating these aspects, the study intends to shed light on the broader implications for the intersection of law and armed conflict, providing insights that may inform policy discussions and enhance the effectiveness and accountability of legal mechanisms within military operations.

1.3 Research Questions

  • What specific legal guidelines govern the role of lawyers in the Indian Army, and
  • how do they align with international standards?
  • How do Judge Advocate Generals contribute to operational decision-making and legal compliance within the Indian Army?
  • What are the primary challenges faced by lawyers in the Indian Army, particularly regarding balancing military necessity with legal constraints and ensuring accountability for violations?
  • How do the experiences of lawyers in the Indian Army reflect broader trends in the role of legal professionals in the armed forces globally?

1.4 Hypothesis Formed

Given the intricate legal landscape within armed forces and the evolving nature of warfare, it is hypothesized that lawyers play a crucial role in ensuring legal compliance, upholding ethical standards, and enhancing operational effectiveness within the Indian Army. Furthermore, it is hypothesized that despite facing challenges such as balancing military necessity with legal constraints, lawyers contribute significantly to promoting accountability and adherence to international humanitarian law, thereby enhancing the overall legitimacy and effectiveness of military operations.

1.5 Research Methodology

The research methodology for this study employs a multi-methodological approach, combining qualitative and quantitative methods to investigate the role of lawyers in the Indian Army. A thorough literature review will establish a theoretical framework, supplemented by interviews with current and former lawyers (Judge Advocates), surveys distributed to legal professionals and military personnel, document analysis of legal frameworks and operational reports, examination of case studies, and comparative analysis with international practices. Ethical considerations will be paramount throughout the research process. Data analysis will utilize thematic analysis for qualitative data and quantitative methods for survey data, providing a comprehensive understanding of the contributions, challenges, and impact of lawyers within the Indian Army.


2.1 Background

Judge Advocates have been an integral part of any armed forces since the inception of the armed forces and the post of a Judge Advocate. In the armed forces, the roles of an advocate general include but aren’t limited to:

  • Handling disciplinary actions within the military, including personnel issues such as promotion of military and civilian personnel, physical disability adjudications, retirement benefits, dependent support, and other employee rights under statutes or regulations.
  • Providing legal assistance to service members, including the execution of wills and powers-of-attorney, as well as personal representation in various legal matters.
  • Representing the armed forces in civil claims seeking damages for wrongs to the nation, defending the government in civil courts for alleged torts of military personnel, and handling other civil actions seeking non-monetary redress.
  • Addressing obligations under treaties and status of forces agreements for armed forces based or located abroad, as well as implementing arms control agreements. This includes a focus on aspects like freedom of navigation on, under, and over the world’s ocean
  • Reviewing investigations, obligations under freedom of information and privacy acts, standards of conduct/ethics for employees, impact of federal fiscal or other domestic laws/regulations on military operations, review of legislation before legislative bodies, and entering into and enforcing contracts. Administrative law also encompasses civil-military relations, including issues related to security and defence.

2.2 Evolution in the Role of Advocate General

Recent events in various conflict zones around the world serve as a stark reminder that the efforts of military commanders and lawyers to ensure a well-trained and disciplined force are crucial. Lieutenant General William R. Peers’ report on the crimes committed at My Lai highlighted the lack of proper training in the Law of War (Hague and Geneva conventions), safeguarding noncombatants, and Rules of Engagement as contributing factors. Therefore, it’s imperative that military lawyers are actively involved in assisting commanders in applying international humanitarian law at all levels of command and operational planning. This involvement includes drafting, training, disseminating, inspecting, and enforcing Rules of Engagement and command policies to bridge the gap between legal principles and military operations. Soldiers must be educated and empowered to make informed decisions, considering legal and ethical implications. For instance, the Third Infantry Division developed a matrix to guide commanders and soldiers in applying international humanitarian law during Operation Iraqi Freedom, demonstrating the practical implementation of legal obligations in military operations. Military lawyers play a central role in negotiating new legal norms to ensure ownership and relevance of humanitarian law within professional military forces. By engaging in discussions on emerging legal norms, lawyers maintain the link between law and practice, preventing the drift of legal objectives into unattainable ideals. Their involvement sustains the core professional identity of military forces and prevents the relegation of humanitarian goals to abstract concepts. Enforcement of humanitarian norms through criminal investigations and prosecutions is essential to uphold the principles of international law. Military lawyers play a crucial role in evaluating the culpability of individuals and recommending appropriate disciplinary action. By ensuring compliance with legal norms, lawyers contribute to strengthening the legitimacy and credibility of military operations. Military lawyers must proactively respond to allegations of war crimes by collecting and analyzing relevant facts in order to provide accurate legal analysis. By ensuring the correct interpretation of international law and dispelling misinformation, lawyers uphold the integrity of humanitarian norms and prevent erosion of public trust. Additionally, lawyers contribute to the enforcement of international law by documenting illegal conduct and holding perpetrators accountable. [1]

2.3 Importance of Legal Compliance and Ethics in Armed Forces

The inscription at Arlington National Cemetery commemorates the sacrifices of professional armies worldwide, highlighting the essential values that distinguish effective military forces. Discipline, integrity, loyalty, sacrifice, moral values, ethics, and a strong value system are paramount. History is replete with examples of smaller forces triumphing over larger ones due to their superior adherence to these principles. Morals and ethics form the backbone of military professionalism, guiding conduct and decision-making. While morals pertain to personal standards, ethics define principles for organizational governance. Professional responsibilities revolve around loyalty to country, duty, and honor, with adherence to just war principles. Military professionals navigate complex ethical pressures, balancing rule-oriented obligations, goal-oriented aspirations, and situation-based decisions. Rule-oriented obligations set criteria for right and wrong, while goal-oriented aspirations focus on public good and personal fulfillment. Situation-based decisions require context-specific judgments, often challenging moral integrity. Challenges arise from societal shifts towards materialism, erosion of moral values, and increased political interference. The military’s role in internal security duties blurs lines between military and civilian spheres, exposing personnel to corrupt influences. Quality of officer intake, nepotism, and corruption further strain ethical standards. The military’s closed society fosters ethical relativism, careerism, loyalty dilemmas, and overambition. Commanders may prioritize rank over example, contributing to a culture of self-interest. Corruption, nepotism, and a lack of formal ethics education exacerbate internal challenges. Drawing from India’s spiritual heritage and global ethical frameworks, a holistic approach is needed to instill ethical values. Acknowledging weaknesses, identifying specific areas for improvement, and promoting transparency are crucial. Evolving a code of ethics, leading by example, and fostering constructive dialogue between ranks can nurture a culture of integrity and honour. Upholding legal compliance and ethics is indispensable for the armed forces, ensuring not only operational effectiveness but also preserving the trust and respect of society. Through concerted efforts and a commitment to ethical leadership, the armed forces can navigate complex challenges while upholding their noble traditions. [2]


3.1 Selection Criteria and Pay

Within the Armed Forces, the lawyers of the army are under The Judge Advocate General Department which is a Branch of the Indian Army that offers a prestigious opportunity for unmarried male and female law graduates to serve through the Short Service Commission. The department is headed by a Judge Advocate General (JAG) which is usually a Commissioned Officer of the rank of Major General Eligibility criteria to join the department include citizenship or specified origins, age between 21 to 27 years, and a minimum of 55% aggregate marks in LLB Degree. Successful candidates undergo a rigorous 49-week training at the Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai, where they receive a Post Graduate Diploma in Defence Management and Strategic Studies. Upon commission, officers are subject to a probationary period of six months and are liable for a tenure of 14 years, with potential for extension or conversion to Permanent Commission. The pay structure is competitive, ranging from ₹56,100 to ₹2,18,200, with various allowances including Military Service Pay, Dearness Allowance, Para Allowance, and more based on rank and area of posting. Promotion criteria are based on years of service, with opportunities for advancement to higher ranks such as Captain, Major, and Colonel. Additionally, officers are entitled to benefits such as medical facilities, insurance coverage under the Army Group Insurance Fund, and children education allowances. The selection process involves SSB interviews, medical examinations, and issuance of joining letters based on merit. Upon joining, officers may be subject to personal restrictions in accordance with Indian laws. Overall, the JAG Entry Scheme provides a rewarding career path for law graduates seeking to serve their country in the Indian Army, offering competitive pay, career advancement opportunities, and a chance to contribute to national security and justice. [3]

3.2 Role of Judge Advocate in the Indian Armed Forces

The Judge Advocate General’s Department holds a pivotal role within the Indian Army, serving as the legal arm responsible for ensuring adherence to military law, promoting discipline, and safeguarding the rights of military personnel. At its core, the primary mission of JAG officers is to provide comprehensive legal advice and services that support naval operations, foster a culture of legal compliance, and uphold the principles of justice and fairness within the armed forces. One of the key functions of the JAG Department is to handle disciplinary cases and litigation pertaining to military matters. This involves advising commanders on legal aspects of military operations, conducting legal reviews of operational plans, and ensuring compliance with domestic and international laws governing armed conflict. JAG officers play a crucial role in maintaining discipline and order within the military by adjudicating cases of misconduct, enforcing military regulations, and promoting ethical conduct among service members. Moreover, the JAG Department serves as a vital resource for providing legal assistance to the army in various areas, including human rights matters and the rule of law. This includes advising on issues such as the lawful conduct of military operations, adherence to international humanitarian law, and compliance with human rights standards. JAG officers work to ensure that military actions are conducted within the bounds of legal and ethical norms, thereby enhancing the credibility and legitimacy of the armed forces. The department is headed by the Judge Advocate General, who serves as the principal legal advisor to the Chief of the Army Staff and provides expert guidance on a wide range of legal issues affecting the army. Under the leadership of the Judge Advocate General, JAG officers contribute to the development and implementation of military legal policy, address emerging legal challenges such as cyber laws, space laws, and terrorism, and promote the integration of legal considerations into military decision-making processes. In addition to their traditional roles, JAG officers are increasingly involved in addressing complex legal issues arising from modern warfare, including the prosecution of war crimes, the protection of civilians in conflict zones, and the legal implications of emerging technologies. As such, the service rendered by JAG officers is considered judicial in nature, reflecting their responsibility to uphold the rule of law and ensure justice within the military. Through their expertise in military law and commitment to legal excellence, JAG officers play a vital role in advancing the mission and values of the Indian Army. [4] [5]

3.3 Influence of JAG in other law-related fields

The influence of the JAG’s Department extends beyond the confines of the military establishment, impacting various other legal fields within the Indian context. One significant area where the influence of JAG officers is felt is in the realm of national security and counterterrorism. Given their expertise in military law and experience in dealing with security-related matters, JAG officers often collaborate with civilian law enforcement agencies and government bodies to address threats to national security, prosecute terrorism cases, and ensure the effective implementation of counterterrorism measures. Their insights into legal aspects of national security operations and their ability to navigate complex legal frameworks contribute to the formulation of robust policies and strategies aimed at safeguarding the nation against internal and external threats. Furthermore, the JAG Department plays a crucial role in shaping the legal landscape concerning human rights and humanitarian law. JAG officers are actively involved in promoting awareness of human rights principles within the military, ensuring compliance with international humanitarian law during armed conflict, and investigating allegations of human rights violations. Through their engagement with human rights organizations, legal advocacy groups, and international bodies, JAG officers contribute to the development of legal norms and standards aimed at protecting the rights and dignity of individuals affected by armed conflict and military operations. Moreover, the influence of the JAG Department extends to areas such as cyber law and space law, reflecting the evolving nature of modern warfare and technology. As the use of cyberspace and outer space becomes increasingly prominent in military operations, JAG officers play a vital role in addressing legal challenges and regulatory gaps in these domains. They provide legal advice on issues related to cyber warfare, space-based activities, and the use of emerging technologies in military operations, contributing to the development of legal frameworks that govern these spheres and ensure their responsible and lawful use. Additionally, the JAG Department’s influence is felt in the broader legal community through its engagement with legal education and professional development. JAG officers often participate in legal forums, conferences, and academic institutions, sharing their expertise in military law and contributing to the training and development of legal professionals. Through their involvement in legal education and advocacy, JAG officers promote a greater understanding of military law and its role in upholding the rule of law and protecting national security interests. The influence of the JAG Department extends beyond the military realm, shaping various aspects of legal discourse and practice in India. Through their expertise, dedication, and commitment to justice, JAG officers contribute to the advancement of legal principles, the protection of human rights, and the promotion of national security objectives in the country.

3.4 JAG’s Department Comparison with International Standard

Comparing Indian Judge Advocate General (JAG) standards with foreign counterparts involves assessing various aspects such as recruitment criteria, training, roles and responsibilities, and legal frameworks. In India, JAG officers are recruited from law graduates through a competitive selection process, with approximately 30 vacancies available annually. [6] This process typically sees thousands of applicants competing for a spot in the Indian Army’s legal branch. On the other hand, foreign militaries often have similar requirements, with the United States, for instance, employing approximately 4,000 Judge Advocates across its Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps.[7]

Regarding training, Indian JAG officers undergo comprehensive legal and military training at the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Chennai, which includes specialized courses in military law and operations. The training duration typically spans 49 weeks, covering various aspects of legal practice in the military context. In contrast, the United States’ Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps provides legal training through The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS) located in Charlottesville, Virginia, offering specialized courses tailored to each branch of service. Roles and responsibilities of JAG officers in India encompass legal advisory services, military justice administration, and ensuring compliance with domestic and international laws. Similarly, foreign JAG officers advise military commanders, handle disciplinary matters, and provide legal support in operational activities. In the United States, for example, JAG officers serve as legal advisors to commanders at all levels and are involved in areas such as operational law, administrative law, and military justice. At commissioning, at the rank of a Captain after the training, A Judge Advocate in India earns a minimum of Rs. 63000 Thousand per month[8] while in the USA, for example, the starting salary of a Judge advocate is around $23500 which is around Rs. 19 Lakh Annually or 1.5 Lakh Rupees per month[9].  Legal frameworks governing military law and operations differ among countries. India follows its own legal system, which includes the Army Act and various regulations, while foreign militaries operate under their respective legal frameworks, which may include international treaties and conventions. For instance, the United States operates under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and various international agreements such as the Geneva Conventions. In terms of operational deployment, Indian JAG officers are deployed in various military units to provide legal support during operations, while foreign JAG officers serve in a similar capacity within their respective armed forces, often accompanying units during deployments and providing legal guidance in complex operational environments.


In conclusion, this comprehensive exploration of the role of legal professionals, particularly Judge Advocate Generals, within the Indian Army has shed light on their multifaceted contributions to operational legality, ethical conduct, and accountability in armed conflict. Through an analysis of the selection criteria, training, roles, and responsibilities of JAG officers, as well as a comparison with international standards, it is evident that the Indian JAG Department plays a pivotal role in ensuring legal compliance, upholding ethical standards, and enhancing operational effectiveness within the armed forces. Addressing the research questions posed in this study, it was found that specific legal guidelines governing the role of lawyers in the Indian Army align closely with international standards, ensuring a robust legal framework for military operations. The contributions of Judge Advocate Generals to operational decision-making and legal compliance within the Indian Army were highlighted, emphasizing their crucial role in advising commanders and ensuring adherence to domestic and international laws. Moreover, the primary challenges faced by lawyers in the Indian Army, including balancing military necessity with legal constraints and ensuring accountability for violations, were explored, revealing the complex ethical and legal dilemmas inherent in military operations. The hypothesis formulated at the outset of this study, asserting the critical role of lawyers in enhancing legal compliance, upholding ethical standards, and promoting accountability within the Indian Army, was validated through the findings of this research. Despite facing challenges, such as reconciling legal obligations with military imperatives, JAG officers contribute significantly to the legitimacy and effectiveness of military operations, thereby reinforcing the importance of their role in contemporary armed conflict. Moving forward, it is imperative to continue examining the evolving role of lawyers in the armed forces, particularly in light of emerging challenges such as hybrid threats and technological advancements. By fostering collaboration, sharing best practices, and promoting ethical leadership, the Indian Army can further enhance the professionalism and effectiveness of its legal mechanisms, thereby ensuring the continued protection of human rights, adherence to international law, and promotion of national security objectives.


[1] Newton MA, “Modern Military Necessity: The Role & Relevance of Military Lawyers” (2007) 12 The Roger Williams University Law Review 891 <>

[2] Singh N, “A Value System and Code of Conduct for the Armed Forces” [2007] UNITED SERVICE INSTITUTION OF INDIA <,the%20person%20who%20embraces%20it.>


[4] “JUDGE ADVOCATE” (Join Indian Navy, February 2, 2024) <>

[5] “Army Commends Judge Advocate General’s Role in Combating Violence” (The Economic Times, December 22, 2014) <>


[7] “JAG Frequently Asked Questions – U.S. Air Force” <>


[9] “JAG Employment Benefits – U.S. Air Force” <>

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