New Delhi: The Army, the Navy and the Air Force have begun working out the modalities of the Joint Services Act, which aims to integrate the three forces and may replace the Acts that govern the three services currently.

While the respective headquarters of the three services are studying each other’s governing Acts, passed by Parliament, they are also looking at international practices, including the American Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 that made sweeping changes to the Department of Defence by reworking the command structure of the US military, defence sources told.

“The work has been going on at individual headquarters-level for the last few months. The matter was also discussed at the recently-held Army Commanders’ Conference and will also figure in the ongoing Naval Commanders’ Conference. The aim is to have a common governing Act for the three services,” said a senior officer who did not wish to be named.

A Common Act & The Post of CDS 

The development comes at a time when the committee, headed by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, is working out the terms of references for the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech this year.

The CDS is likely to be a four-star officer who will be the single-point military adviser to the government. The announcement of the post of CDS is in line with a long-pending demand to bring in synergy and pave the way for effective integration.

The CDS will be the first among equals, and the three tri-services Strategic, Cyber, Space and Special Operations Command will also come under him. These commands will be headed by the services in rotation and will have personnel from all three services.

‘Common Act Important For Smooth Functioning’

“Currently, the Army, Navy and the IAF have separate Acts that govern their personnel and conduct. While some offences will bring in severe repercussions under one Act, it might not be true for the other,” said a second officer. For example, in the Army, there are offences that are punishable by death in the battlefield, he said.

“…in the coming years, you will find an Air Force officer commanding an important command where he will be leading Army personnel or vice-versa. A common Act is very important for the smooth functioning,” the officer added.

Asked if the Joint Services Act will replace the three existing Acts governing the armed forces, a source said the modalities are being worked out.

“The services will look at all the pros and cons, and will present the government with options and the best way forward. A single Act, which draws from the best practices of all the three, could replace the existing ones,” the source added.